A Winnipeg woman is dead following a horrific accident involving a speedboat and a cabin cruiser near Detroit Sunday evening.
Nancy Axford, 68, was killed when a Baja speedboat slammed into the side of a large Bayliner cabin cruiser in the south channel of the St. Clair River, which is just off Harsen’s Island near the international border between Southern Ontario and Michigan.
Axford was one of two people killed in the crash. A Michigan man, Robert Koontz, 57, was also pronounced dead at the scene. Axford’s husband avoided injury. Three others also on board the cabin cruiser suffered injuries, as well, with one woman listed in critical condition Monday.
The accident occurred at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday.
Alan Block was on the water and witnessed the entire crash. He knew something bad was going to happen when he saw the 29-foot (nine-metre) Baja boat skipping off the wakes left by the 40-foot (12-metre) long Bayliner and another similar sized boat.
"I spend all my time on the water and you just know when something is going to happen and sure enough, yet another idiot in a power boat," said Block, who is a senior editor at the Sailing Anarchy website.
Block described the Baja travelling at around 80-90 kilometres per hour at the time of the accident. The south channel of the St. Clair River is approximately 500-metres wide, so there was plenty of room for the speedboat to navigate past the Bayliner, but not at that speed he said.
Once the driver of the Baja started bouncing off the waves, he had already lost control, Block said.
"When a little boat hits a big wake, you’re along for the ride," Block said. "You’re basically flying through the air at that point and you can’t steer the boat."
Block said it was a gorgeous day to be on the water — sunny with a light breeze — and that many were out enjoying the late afternoon/early evening. He said the people on the cabin cruiser had no idea the Baja was approaching until it was too late.
"I don’t think they had any idea what was coming their way. No idea. They were just minding their own business, probably just chatting and looking ahead," Block said.
"They wouldn’t have been able to do anything (if they saw it) anyway."
Sgt. Tim Donnellon, a spokesman for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s office, said it looked like the Baja became airborne and crashed into the port side of the Bayliner. The impact smashed the flying bridge off its supports and hurled the three people on the bridge into the water.
The three people on the main deck of the cruiser — Axford, Koontz and his wife — were killed or seriously injured.
"It hit the cruiser port side, almost through the boat to the starboard side," Donnellon said today. "The Baja hit the other side and then slid back out the port side back into the water."
A 32-year-old man from nearby Chesterfield Township in Michigan was arrested on alcohol-related charges. Donnellon said the man was released pending the results of the blood work he submitted following the crash.