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Report: ‘Reckless operation’ cited in BRP crash

“Careless [and] reckless operation,” “operator inattention” and a “sudden sharp turn” were contributors to a BRP Corp. trial run crash in June that resulted in two dead, according to the preliminary report by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which was obtained by Trade Only Today through a Freedom Of Information Act request.

A 15-foot, 260-hp Sea-Doo Speedster wakeskate with two people was running alongside a 23-foot, 510-hp Sea-Doo 230 Challenger jetboat on Rend Lake in Benton, Ill., June 26, when the Speedster operator “executed a sharp left turn directly in the path” of the jetboat, according to the report.

“One of the boats, for whatever reason … pulled right out in front of the other one, so basically the other boat ran over them,” Jerry Hiller, Region Five captain of IDNR, told Trade Only the day after the crash.

The jetboat struck the Speedster just forward of midships and continued up and over the watercraft, according to the report, breaking off the Speedster’s throttle control.

That impact sent the Speedster operator, 38-year-old Larry Smithhart, who was employed at BRP’s Palm Bay, Fla., facility, into the water. His body was recovered the following day. The Speedster continued at 35 mph until it ran aground, traveling around 40 feet before hitting trees.

The impact with the trees ejected passenger Teresa Camargo, who worked at Milsco Manufacturing Co.’s Mexico location. Milsco is a BRP supplier. Camargo was airlifted to a Saint Louis hospital with severe head trauma and was later pronounced dead.

Another Milsco employee, a passenger on the jetboat, sustained a head injury, back pain and lacerations from the striking windshield and console, according to the report. He was admitted to the hospital, but there were no further details on his condition.

The operator of the jetboat, another BRP employee, was treated and released for bruising and soreness, and another passenger was treated at the scene.

No charges were filed.

The accident occurred on a sunny day at around 3 p.m. with relatively no wind, according to the report. Conditions were calm.

The bulk of the damage was to the Speedster, which accounted for around $21,000 of the estimated $27,000 both vessels sustained, the report said.

The investigation into the crash remains open.

— Reagan Haynes

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