15-year-old Spring Lake boy killed in boating accident in Stahl's Bayou

by Terry Judd | The Muskegon Chronicle Saturday September 05, 2009, 11:04 PM

A 15-year-old Spring Lake boy was killed and two Chicago-area females were injured when the personal watercraft they were riding on in Spring Lake collided with a ski boat carrying five teens Saturday night.    Officials had not released as of late Saturday night the names of the deceased, who was driving the personal watercraft, or those of the two females. One of the passengers, a 16-year-old girl, was listed in critical condition at Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus with an amputated leg. The other passenger, a 23-year-old woman, was listed in fair condition at North Ottawa Community Hospital with bumps, bruises and cuts.    Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Steve Kempker said an autopsy would be performed on the deceased this weekend, but it appeared he was killed by the impact of being struck by the ski boat.    The accident happened around 7:10 p.m. near Stahl’s Bayou in Spring Lake on the first day of the long Labor Day weekend. Kempker said the 15-year old boy was piloting the personal watercraft in a straight line on Spring Lake and was being followed by another personal watercraft carrying two persons.    At the same time, a Mastercraft ski boat, piloted by a 15-year-old boy was making a wide turn.    “The initial indication is the jet skis were heading across the bayou,” he said. “The Mastercraft ski boat had gone in and made a large turn — possibly was on an angle and up on a plane. And when it came out of that turn it collided with one of the jet skis.”    After the accident, the three victims were pulled from the water by two boaters, who transported them to Fruiport Village’s Pomona Park boat launch. Officials said the 16-year-old ski boat passenger lost the lower part of a leg and her rescuers had to apply a tourniquet to control the bleeding.    Kempker said boat was carrying a total of five teen-agers 14 to 15 years of age. None were injured by the accident and the boat remained at the accident scene.    Kempker said the 15-year-old driver of the boat did have a boating safety certificate. There is no indication that alcohol was a factor, he said, although the case will be referred to the prosecutor’s office for review, as is done with fatal accidents.    Kempker stressed the investigation was just beginning. The damaged personal watercraft was recovered.    “The hard part about water accidents is that it’s not like a traffic accident where all of your evidence is on the roadway,” he said. “We have a lot to piece together.”    A couple, who declined to give their names, said they were operating their ski boat near Stahl’s Bayou when they hear the collision. The husband, who spent 19 years with the military, jumped in the water and immediately applied a tourniquet to the injured 16-year-old and assisted in loading her into a Zodiac inflatable boat. The deceased and the 23-year-old woman were placed in his boat.    “We did what we had to l do,” he said. “Those in the boat that struck did not assist. I don’t know what they were thinking.”    Kempker said the fatality was a grim reminder that boating safety can’t be stressed enough.   “In any case safety is first; you really have to pay attention,” he said. “The thing is with a boat, you don’t have brakes and it’s used for recreation and fun. Sometimes people don’t pay enough attention.”
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