Sunday, June 29, 2003

Police searching for hit-skip boat

Craft that injured six might have docked in Moscow, witness says

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The search continued Saturday for the offshore speedboat involved in a hit-and-run wreck on the Ohio River that left six people injured Friday night.

The mayor of Moscow, Ohio, told Clermont County police he saw a wrecked boat like the one witnesses described being towed from a public boat ramp in the village, but authorities weren't able to locate it.

Workers at area marinas searched the boats in their storage spaces and found nothing.

Shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, a 40-foot cigarette boat struck a smaller motorboat near the Queen City Riverboat landing in Dayton. While the smaller boat limped to the landing, the speedboat stopped briefly on the Ohio side of the river at Schmidt Field. After a man jumped out to check damage, the speedboat headed east, witnesses reported.

Two of the injured passengers suffered critical head injuries and others had arm and leg fractures, said Dayton Police Sgt. Raleigh Barnett.

Saturday evening, at least three of the six who were injured were in fair condition. Doug Howard and Steve Abernathy were both at University Hospital, and Tom Bocson was at St. Luke East in Fort Thomas, Ky.

A seventh passenger, whom Barnett described as an infant, was uninjured.

Tim Suter, the mayor of Moscow, spotted a white, purple and yellow boat with a severely damaged motor being towed by a blue GMC truck about 1 p.m. Saturday. The phrase "Snap Decision" is written on the boat, he said.

Two men were in the truck, and a woman driving a black or dark blue Cadillac with a Kentucky license plate accompanied them, Suter said. Not knowing at that time about the wreck, Suter asked the man driving the boat if he wanted help securing it.

"He said, 'No, I've just got to go,' " Suter recalled. "He was in a hurry to leave."

The banks of the Ohio River near Moscow don't easily accommodate such large boats, Suter said.

"It was very strange to see a boat that large being taken out of the area," he said.

The large boat, described as a cigarette boat, is a kind of offshore boat that can cost anywhere from $100,000 to upward of $1.6 million, said Michael Jordan, of Grand Prix Marine in Fairfield, which specializes in offshore boats.

The boat is an investment, and something an owner wouldn't want to wreck, he said.

"It's just like having a Corvette," he said. Offshore boats can go from 50 to 140 miles per hour, depending on the type and number of engines they have, he said.

While much remains unknown about the circumstances that contributed to this wreck, boat accidents are more common at night, said Mike Chadwick, chief warrant operations officer for the Ohio Valley Coast Guard.

"It's a little more difficult because you can't see the boats," he said. "All you have to go by are the navigation lights on the boats."

At a marina near Dayton, Teri Adams, 35, of Taylor Mill said she feared for her safety the one time she took her boat out at night. She hasn't been out after dark since.

"It was the biggest mistake we ever made," she said. "There wasn't enough light."


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