VIDEO: Overloaded boat results in two deaths

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Two people died and three others escaped with minor injuries when a boat swamped Sunday after its engine failed near the King-Lincoln Park pier in Newport News, Va.

Virginia Marine Police preliminarily determined that the boat, a 1975 Manatee, was overloaded. In addition to the five passengers, it held a cooler, the Daily Press in Newport News reported.

A reporter from WAVY-TV spoke to police officers and witnesses.

Tony Pierce, who was fishing off the King-Lincoln Park pier, told the Daily Press that he saw the five people — two women and three men — and a dog in the water and the tail end of a boat that had just capsized. Pierce said he ran to the end of the pier with a rope that he threw to one of the men.

“He had the strength at first,” Pierce said, but after about 10 minutes the man could no longer hold on.

Two of the five people who were in the boat died. Two others were transported to Riverside Regional Medical Center by ambulance, according to Newport News Fire Department and Virginia Marine Resources Commission officials. The fifth, a man, received basic medical treatment at the scene, police said.

The boat was impounded by marine police as the commission investigates. The boat's engine is being examined for any mechanical issues that may have contributed to the accident, the commission said.

Onlookers said the boat's engine had stalled about 25 yards off the pier. While one man tried to get it started again, the wind and waves picked up, splashing water into the boat.

“It was white-capping out here,” said Billy Whitson, of Hampton, Va., who was fishing on the pier at the time of the accident.

Dominque Ruffin, also of Hampton, said the group was bailing water with coolers, but the boat went under.

“Everything happened so fast,” he said.

Ruffin, along with Whitson and Pierce, attempted to pull two of the men to safety, but couldn't get them over the rail of the narrow pier. So they dragged them along the side to a ladder about halfway down the long pier. One man couldn't keep hold and drifted away.

The current had swept the others around the corner of the pier, which sits at the mouth of the James River where it meets Chesapeake Bay.