A crash between two boats on Lake Norman in Huntersville, North Carolina (NC), killed one man and sent three other people to the hospital with injuries. The deadly collision near Blythe Landing off Weatherly Lane happened a little after 11 pm on May 15, 2017.
Local police and investigators from the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission described the wreck as a T-bone crash, meaning one of the boats speared the other. Two people were in each craft, and the deceased boater remained missing until around 6 pm the following day. Two of the injured survivors required extended hospital treatment but are expected to recover.
It remains unclear a week later why the fatal collision happened. One of the first questions asked was whether both boats were displaying the proper navigation lights. Under North Carolina law, all motorized and nonmotorized vessels longer than 16 feet must use lights from sunset to sunrise, as well as during periods of fog and heavy rain. Specifically, boat operators are required to mount a sternlight and to hang red (port/left) and green (starboard/right) sidelights that can be seen for two miles.
Boat operators have legal obligations to recognize and yield right of way while approaching, passing and crossing in front of other watercraft. The basic rules of the road on the water dictate that when two boats are at a right angle -- the necessary precursor to a T-bone crash -- the vessel to the right-hand side must yield or move out of the way when stopping or slowing down will not do enough to reduce the risk of a collision.
The right of way rule for boats also includes an acknowledgement that the operator who should yield may not due to limited visibility, poor lookout, inexperience or negligence. When the operator of a craft that has right of way realizes that it will not be given, he or she has a duty to take all necessary actions to prevent a collision.
The most import thing, as noted by a Wildlife Resources Commission investigator in remarks to WBTV 3, is that boaters need to “be safe. Be aware of where you are, what you're doing. Be aware of the other vessels around you. It’s easy to let your guard down sometimes, especially at night when there’s not much boating traffic.”
If safety violations or negligence by either boater is discovered, the people injured on Lake Norman and the family of the man who lost his life would have grounds for filing personal injury and wrongful death insurance claims or lawsuits. Consulting with an experienced Carolina plaintiff’s attorney will help them learn about and exercise their legal options to receive compensation and damages.