The skipper and crew whose recent high-speed spinout on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks was caught on video were fortunate that no one was seriously injured, says expert high-performance boat operator Chris Fertig.
“There were some injuries, but there could have easily been some deaths from that incident,” says Fertig, who in August set a new record for a non-stop run from New York to Bermuda aboard a 37-foot Statement Marine center console. “Ultimately, it is the driver’s responsibility, and he was going too fast for the conditions.”
Seven people were in a Fountain on Aug. 31 when it reportedly hit a large wake at speed and slammed from one side to the other, violently tossing passengers around as the powerboat came to an abrupt stop. Five people were taken to an area hospital, where they were treated for minor to moderate injuries.
Click play for video of the accident and commentary from Fertig.
“There are some obvious safety concerns,” says Fertig, who also operated high-speed chase boats as a member of the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction task force. “Everyone was standing, wearing no life jackets, and the driver had no safety kill-switch lanyard. They were running in calm water and then encountered some significantly larger wakes, and the driver did not adjust to those conditions.”
Waves and wakes in a large body of water such as the Lake of the Ozarks can become deceivingly dangerous, Fertig says. “The rocky shoreline compounds the waves,” he says. “You get a false sense of security running fast in calm seas for a good portion of a trip, and then you don’t realize soon enough that you are about to go through some significantly larger waves or wakes.
“Unfortunately, people when driving a boat like that in extremis come off the power, and if you come off the power at the wrong time, which he did, you end up making things worse and tripping the boat.”
The Associated Press reported that the driver — 48-year-old Marvin Carter III of Memphis, Tenn. — was an experienced boater.
“You learn from experience, and he will become a better driver from this,” Fertig says. “But, unfortunately, he’ll have to deal with the results of what happened, which could have been much worse.”
Fertig is the subject of our Talkin’ Boats feature in the October issue of Soundings.