A couple from Calgary are still recovering after a bizarre boat crash Aug. 8 on Shuswap Lake saw another boat land on top of their speedboat.
“We were out in the evening, and there was just this brief second when we saw the other boat before it came up and over us,” says Ryan Fitzpatrick. “We are lucky to be alive. It was quite a shock. I think we are still in shock this many days later.”
A report from the Chase RCMP states that at 10:17 p.m., Chase RCMP officers responded to a call of a collision involving two vessels on Shuswap Lake, near Copper Island. It was reported that one pleasure craft struck the rear of another that was stationary at the time.
A 41-year-old woman in the stationary craft suffered injuries as a result of the collision, states the RCMP press release.
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR), based in Sicamous, was called out to assist with the rescue; however, other boaters were able to complete the night-time rescue, so RCMSAR was not required.
While Fitzpatrick sustained minor injuries, his wife was taken to hospital and is now recovering with bed rest at the couple’s home in Calgary.
There were two men in the other speedboat at the time of the crash. Police did not report injuries to either of those men.
“We feel lucky to be alive. The only reason is both of us were in the front. And it is unusual for us not to have passengers, to be out alone, but fortunately my daughter, who is six months pregnant, ended up leaving a day early. Otherwise she would have been out on the boat with us. Anyone in the back…, well, the other boat would have hit right on top of them.”
Fitzpatrick says they had the appropriate lights on their boat at the time of the collision and were following boating regulations.
He says they have concerns about how police are handling the situation. They have made a complaint with the Chase detachment about officer conduct and a lack of screening of the boat’s operator for alcohol or drug use.
“We did not see them use any type of screening device and from what I understand there was no breathalyzer either. They were released at the scene, I am pretty upset at the way it was handled,” says Fitzpatrick.
“They (the men in the other boat) were laughing as we were trying to get the boats detangled. It may seem funny to them, but it sure isn’t funny to us.”
In their press release, the RCMP say they continue to investigate the collision, including whether alcohol played a part in the incident.
In an additional statement provided to the Observer, Staff Sgt. Gary Heebner of the Chase detachment says police could recommend charges in any case where the evidence meets the standard for charge approval by Crown Counsel. Another option is for a ticket to be issued a under a provincial or Transport Canada violations. He said an RCMP corporal met with the couple at the detachment to discuss their case, but could not comment on it directly.
“I can’t speak to this case specifically as it is still under investigation, however, in general, breath testing, whether it be roadside with the handheld instrument, or at the detachment using the Intoximeter, requires some form of grounds to make a demand and those grounds are observed by the investigator at the scene,” says Heebner.
“In all collisions, vehicle or vessel, one of our primary concerns is whether the operator had consumed alcohol, and if so, how much. The investigator may do a number of things to determine whether there are grounds for a breath demand, such as check for motor coordination, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, smell of liquor on the breath, and one-on-one interviews. As well, supporting grounds may be the presence of open liquor containers in the vehicle or vessel. Also, the observations of the investigator at the scene may be enough evidence to recommend a charge of impaired operation, without the use of an instrument. The primary investigator of this incident has a great deal of experience in alcohol-related driving cases and her work is supervised by the Operations NCO at the detachment.”
The crash bears some similarities to another fatal boat crash between a speedboat and a houseboat on Shuswap Lake at Magna Bay in 2010. Leon Reinbrecht was been found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of houseboat operator Ken Brown. His case is under appeal.
**In an earlier online version of this story it gave the impression the police officers were laughing about the situation. This was not the case. Fitzpatrick says it was the men in the other vessel who were laughing about the incident.