Two people are dead and three were injured after a BRP boat trial resulted in a two-vessel crash at a southern Illinois lake when a crisscrossing maneuver went awry.
Instead of crisscrossing, a boat carrying two people plunged into a second boat with three aboard during the trial run Tuesday on Rend Lake in Benton, Ill., sending the first vessel aground at top speed, local officials told Soundings Trade Only.
Both occupants of that boat were killed, according to Jerry Hiller, the Region Five captain with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The three people in the other boat had non-life-threatening injuries, according to a BRP release.
“Of course, it’s still under investigation, but the best we can tell, both boats got up on plane, which means they were moving at a high rate of speed,” Hiller said.
“One of the boats, for whatever reason — and unfortunately both occupants of that boat are deceased now — but the operator of one boat pulled right out in front of the other one, so basically the other boat ran over them,” Hiller said. “So, in other words, they were crisscrossing, and one boat ran over the other one and killed both of them.”
Both boats were operated by BRP employees; the passengers were employees from Milsco Manufacturing Co.’s Mexico location, according to Hiller and BRP.
The operator of the vessel that ran aground, Larry Smithhart, was employed at BRP’s Palm Bay, Fla., facility.
His body was recovered in about 8 feet of water Wednesday afternoon, Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones told Soundings Trade Only.
Teresa Camargo, who worked at BRP supplier Milsco Mexico, also was killed, according to the BRP release. Another Milsco employee was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The other two people involved had minor injuries and were not hospitalized.
Camargo was found on land, alive but with severe head injuries, after being ejected from the boat when it ran aground, Jones said. She was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital, but “didn’t live long,” Jones said.
Occupants of the second boat told responders there was another person on the vessel that ran aground, Jones said.
“Nobody knew where the guy was at first,” Jones said. “After it became apparent he was not on land, we focused more on water.”
Several local agencies began to search the vast lake — the second-largest man-made lake in Illinois — including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Natural Resources and the county sheriff’s department, Jones said.
“Once the body was located by sonar by IDNR, members of my dive team actually recovered the body, so it was a cooperative effort all the way around,” Jones said.
The Department of Natural Resources expects to wrap up the investigation on Friday, Hiller said.
Hiller was in transit between offices and did not have access to reports, but he believed that the boat carrying the two people who were killed was a four-passenger Sea-Doo.
The other vessel was a little bigger, “a basic recreational variety,” Hiller said.
“It goes without saying that these events are heartbreaking for all of us and the affected families and friends,” BRP said in a statement.
“BRP is currently assessing and focused on the needs of the family members and all others involved,” the statement read. “BRP is taking all appropriate actions to meet those needs.”
“There’s not much more we can say at this time,” BRP spokeswoman Johanne Denault told Soundings Trade Only. “There’s an investigation going on.”
— Reagan Haynes