Two men died and a third went to the hospital with severe injuries after a 32-foot power boat completely ran over a 16-foot bass boat on Lake Murray in Lexington County, South Carolina (SC). The fatal boat crash happened at around 11 pm on April 21, 2017.
The deceased and injured victims were all in the smaller craft. A coroner determined the causes of death were blunt force trauma and head injuries. The surviving passenger from the bass boat remained hospitalized five days after the wreck.
Investigators from the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continue seeking a cause for the deadly collision on the water west of Columbia. First responders performed field sobriety tests on the person operating the power boat and ruled out boating while intoxicated. DNR officials are currently checking GPS devices and engine data recorders for evidence of speed and direction to check if either craft was traveling too fast for conditions or in violation of right of way.
The other piece of information boat crash investigators will need to uncover involves how closely the boat operators were paying attention to hazards. A primary duty for anyone steering a watercraft is keeping a proper lookout. The Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road states that this rule on inland waters like Lake Murray is “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.” Fulfilling the duty to keep a proper lookout requires watching out for other watercraft, objects in the water and aids to navigation like buoys, lights and channel markers while using all available tools, including one’s eyes and ears, radar, radio and binoculars.
Unfortunately, too many boaters neglect this duty. According to the South Carolina DNR Boater Education webpage, “Failing to keep a sharp lookout is the most common cause of collisions.” That type of negligence can make a boat operator responsible for settling personal injury and wrongful death claims after a crash.
As the weather warms, more people will spend time on the lakes of rivers of South Carolina, as well the ocean waters of the coast. Watching out for crash risks and obeying all other safe boating rules will prevent tragedies like this one in Lexington County.