A ski boat crash on Cheat Lake, northeast of Morgantown, West Virginia (WV), on Memorial Day 2015 sent 12 people to hospitals with injuries. Three of the individuals who had been aboard the 23-foot motorboat when it slammed into the shore close to Sunset Beach Marina sustained critical injuries.



No immediate explanations for why the boat ran aground and into a stand of trees on the lake’s edge were available. Investigators from the state’s Division of Natural Resources started reconstructing the accident the next day but have not released any preliminary information. Fellow boaters and residents of the town of Cheat Lake who were not involved in the crash told television station WDTV that the water was choked in places by debris from winter storms and that boating at night near the shore, when and where this accident occurred, can often be unsafe.

Investigators will also have to look into whether the person steering the boat at the time of the crash had been drinking or using drugs, and also whether one or more of the passengers aboard distracted the driver to the degree that avoiding the beaching proved impossible. Boating while intoxicated and distracted boating can be just as dangerous as DWI and distracted driving.

As this crash also shows, wrecks on the water can be as serious as collisions between cars and trucks. Boat operators, just like drivers, must remain sober, alert and ready to respond to sudden obstacles and changing conditions. Similarly, just as drivers must obey stop signs and yield right of way when appropriate, boaters must know and follow all applicable rules of the road for the waterways they use. Failing to do so puts everyone else onboard and in nearby watercraft at risk for getting injured or killed.