I always feel calmer when I’m by the River, but this morning the calm was mixed with a heavy dose of sadness knowing that an 8-year old boy had died in yesterday’s afternoon’s boating accident. The river is wonderful and vital, but it is also crowded and powerful, and can be dangerous at times.
The local press has covered the accident heavily. The Daily News has some good detail and a photo of the boat being raised, as does WNBC news. It seems the victims were twelve members of a family, some of whom were visiting from Colombia, who had chartered the boat. The owner of the boat was following close behind on a jet ski and assisted in the rescue attempts.
According to WNBC, the boat itself was a 24’ Yamaha AR240 jet drive powerboat, an open boat with a soft top. The Daily News article has a photo of the boat being raised out of the water by the Corps of Engineers which seems consistent with this.
The cause of the tragedy will of course be carefully investigated. The Daily News quoted a Harbor Patrol officer as indicating they believed wakes from passing ferries may have contributed and that the boat may have been overloaded. Eleven adults does seem like a lot for a 24’ boat, but the official capacity of the boat is 12 according to The Boat Guide website.
Conditions at the time of the accident (2:45pm) were reasonably calm though there were advisories in affect ahead of thunderstorms expected later. There was an ebb tide running against a southerly wind, and ferries can create big wakes. Perhaps they hit a large wake awkwardly at speed, or got rolled by a wave hitting the beam with too much weight on one side. As near as I can tell, the incident occurred mid-river off Pier 86 or so, but the boat would have drifted south with the ebb and emergency services staged off Pier 79 as seen in yesterday’s post.
The crane boat in the Daily News photo is the Corps of Engineers boat Hayward, which often is in the river fishing out large tree limbs (or tree trunks) but is sometimes called on for special salvage operations. We watched the Hayward fish an engine off the bottom from United Airways 1549 after it broke off in the 2009 emergency landing and saw her pull a wrecked WWII era fighter plane out of the river after it crashed near the Jersey side in 2016. Coincidentally I photographed the Hayward earlier in the day on Tuesday, about an hour before the accident, with the crew certainly unaware of the grim turn their day would take.
Meanwhile, activity was fairly light on Wednesday on the river, and seemed weighted towards military vessels for whatever reason. A 44’ boat belonging to the New York Naval Militia, the naval arm of the National Guard, passed by in the morning heading north with no AIS signal. Later in the day, four Coast Guard 29’ boats were doing their drills off Riverside Park, with machine guns mounted on two boats as usual.