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Fatal Boat Crash on Connecticut River in Portland

Connecticut river

Earlier this month, a single vessel boat crash occurred on the Connecticut River in Portland. Six adults and two minors (between six and twelve years old) were aboard the vessel when it crashed, and the crash tragically claimed the life of one person (60-year-old Wayne Hamler), and several others, including the children, were injured. Our deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families.

Just north of Petzold’s Marina, the boat operator lost control of the helm (or wheel), which caused the boat to veer off course. The boat then traveled directly toward the shoreline, and after traveling about 50 feet or so along the rocky shoreline, the vessel crashed. All eight passengers were ejected after the impact.

After the collision, several calls were made to 911. The first call was made by one of the boat passengers. The subsequent calls were made by a bystander who heard screaming, a woman who witnessed the accident, and a woman who was also on the Connecticut River. All four calls were made between 4:30:51 p.m. and 4:31:42 p.m.

Three of the adults injured had serious injuries and were hospitalized. The two children, who sustained injuries, were transported to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Reportedly, one of the children was said to have a “critically injured extremity.”

Investigators (from the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)) are still trying to determine what caused the loss of control. DEEP EnCon Police Captain Keith Williams has said that this boating season has been unfortunate for the department and everyone involved. He asks that boat operators be mindful of their limitations, the vessel’s limitations and capabilities, and the conditions of the water and weather. In addition to checking the weather conditions, you can take steps to be safe while boating by:

  • Conducting safety equipment and vessel safety checks
  • Taking a boating safety course
  • Appointing an Assistant Skipper (i.e. a person onboard who also knows how to operate the boat)
  • Making sure you pack essentials like water, navigation tools, emergency kits, etc.
  • Drafting a float plan (i.e. a document that includes a list of the passengers, your destination, route details, arrival and departure time, etc.) that you share with a person who is staying on shore
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoiding alcohol (as the operator and as a passenger)
  • Wearing a lifejacket

Common Injuries Sustained in Boating Accidents

If a boat capsizes or collides with another boat or vessel or a person is ejected from the boat, they can sustain serious injuries, including (but not limited to):

  • Accidental amputations
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Whiplash

What Do You Do After a Boat Collision or Accident?

Unfortunately, boating accidents are not as uncommon as we might hope. According to data from the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2020, 5,265 boating accidents resulted in 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. If you are involved in an accident as a boater, here are some steps you can take after the collision.

  • Do a passenger check. If possible, take stock of everyone’s injuries including your own, and ensure you can account for all the passengers. During this check, be sure everyone is wearing a life jacket.
  • Call for help. If you do not have cell reception to call 911, you can use a VHF radio to make a distress call. Whatever method you use, calling for help can help ensure the Coast Guard, fire department, or local marine police department is dispatched.
  • Consider relocating. If the boat is unsafe for you to remain on, you should safely evacuate, and in cases where a boat is in a high-traffic area, you may also consider moving the boat to a safer location.
  • Monitor everyone’s condition. Sometimes, symptoms and injuries can develop over time. Keeping tabs on the health of those involved can be important in ensuring everyone’s safety.
  • Collect information. If another boat was involved, you should get the owner and operator’s information as well as details about the boat. You and the other passengers can also take note of what you remember concerning the accident as that can help in determining what happened.
  • Get medical treatment. No matter how minor or severe your injuries seem, you should be checked out by a medical professional.

To schedule a case consultation, contact our firm online or call (877) 795-5594. With over 20 years of collective experience, we are here to fight for your right to fair compensation after a negligence-based accident.

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