This happened yesterday. Weather was beautiful and Lake St. Clair was as busy or busier than I have ever seen. Unfortunately, someone who had been drinking was driving too fast in a twin-engine Baja, hit some waves too fast and then launched on to the top of a Bayliner cruiser, killing some of the occupants of the Bayliner.
Why do so many boaters think that drinking and driving is acceptable?
Story from Detroit News: 2 dead identified from weekend boat crash near Harsens Island
Originally Posted by DetNews.comHarsens Island — Alcohol and high speed may have been factors in a collision between boats that killed two people and injured three others Sunday evening on Lake St. Clair, according to witnesses and authorities.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports a 25-foot Baja boat went over a cabin cruiser carrying six people, killing two on the cabin cruiser. Three others on the cabin cruiser had to be hospitalized, including a woman in her 60s who is in critical condition.
There were no injuries on the Baja.
The crash occurred about 6:15 p.m. in the south shipping channel near Harsens Island, located about 50 miles northeast of Detroit at the south end of the St. Clair River.
The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victims as Nancy Axford, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Robert Koontz, who was in his 50s, of Chesterfield Township. Axford’s husband was physically uninjured in the incident. But Koontz’s wife, who is in her 60s, was critically injured in the crash. A third unmarried couple on the cabin cruiser received minor injuries.
Algonac resident Alan Block, who is a local sailboat racer and senior reporter for Sailing Anarchy, was sailing in the southbound channel and was about 200 feet from the collision when it occurred.
“I came to a stop because I knew something was going to happen,” Block said. “There were two large boats — perhaps 40 footers — headed southbound and they were leaving large wakes. One of the boats looked like a fishing vessel and the other was a cabin cruiser with an upper deck. A third boat, a 25-foot Baja, which is a very fast speed boat, was headed northbound in the shipping channel doing about 45 to 50 mph.”
According to Block, the Baja failed to slow down for the large wakes caused by the bigger boats.
“I watched as the speed boat tried to go around the two boats, moving toward the Canadian side,” Block said. “He hit the wake of the second boat, flew into the air and came down on the second wake. People on his boat were being thrown around and he lost control of the boat.”
Block said he watched in disbelief as the Baja hit a third wake and was launched about 10 feet into the air.
“It was completely clear of the water,” Block said. “It crashed into the top deck of the cabin cruiser and basically smashed through to the other side. It actually knocked off the upper deck, which collapsed onto the hull of the boat. I’ve lived and worked on the water my entire life, and I’ve never seen anything like this.
“It was horrible.”
According to Block, the impact threw a woman into the water.
“Myself and some other boats were looking for her,” Block said. “The body was picked up about 20 minutes later by a couple on a pontoon boat. They did CPR but to no avail.”
Another man on the cabin cruiser received a severe head injury.
“They worked on him but they stopped pretty quickly because he was clearly dead,” Block said. “The fire chief from Algonac came on board and worked on an older woman who seemed to be in shock. She was really bad off. They took her off the boat using one of those fan-driven airboats they use to rescue people from the ice or are in reeds.”
According to Block, a number of boats milled around the area before finally heading out.
“I took some photos of the guy who caused the crash and another gentleman who was on his boat,” Block said. “They were clearly shaken up. The driver of the Baja was taken into custody. I heard one deputy say to another deputy ‘he’s been drinking.’”
Drunk or sober, the driver of the Baja wouldn’t have been able to handle the wake at that speed, according to Block.
“When a little boat hits a big boat, you’re pretty much along for the ride,” Block said.
According to Sheriff Tim Donnellon the driver of the Baja — identified only as a 32-year-old resident of Chesterfield Township — remains in custody on alcohol-related charges. The Chesterfield Township man faces arraignment in Marine City District Court.
“There were three persons on the Baja, and the driver was the only one arrested,” Donnellon said. “The case will be turned over to the prosecutor’s office. I believe they’ll come to some kind of decision by the end of the day. The bodies of the victims have been turned over to the medical examiner’s office, and I don’t expect a statement as to the causes of death for a few days.”
The sheriff’s department has taken possession of the boats and has them in storage while accident reconstruction experts who specialize in marine accidents continue their investigation.
“This has been one of the most deadly summers I can remember,” Donnellon said. “We had a double fatal car crash in Burtchville, the following Friday we had a fatal when someone ran a stop sign. Then a fatal motorcycle crash, a fatal car crash on a two-lane road and now a double fatal boating crash.”
Shipping traffic on the south channel was stopped for a period of time while rescue operations were underway.