This case involves a family that was killed in a boating accident on a lake in Colorado. The family was riding in their personal 23ft Formula boat when they were suddenly run over by a 25ft Mastercraft boat. The impact killed three members of the family and the fourth family member drowned under the boat debris. It was alleged that the driver of the Mastercraft boat was speeding at 3 times the limit in the designated boating zone and that his negligence caused the accident. An expert in boating accident reconstruction was sought to inspect the boats in question, opine on the speed of the vehicles at the time of the crash, and determine how the collision occurred.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. How would you determine the speed of the boat as well as how the collision occurred?
Expert Witness Response E-162340
I am an accredited marine surveyor and a member of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors. I am also a certified marine investigator with the International Association of Marine Investigators. I have served as a damage surveyor for insurers for almost 30 years. 20-25% of the cases I have seen have involved collisions. To determine the speed, the distance between the prop strikes can be measured and with the known size of the prop and ratio of the drive. Determining how the collision occurred is generally determined by the location and appearance of the damage to the boats, witness statements, and other documents. Determining fault and proportioning blame are fairly routine questions that are answered by damage surveyors. Diagrams from witnesses and application of the ColRegs or Inland ColRegs are used to assess blame.
Expert Witness Response E-162793
I would survey the damaged 23 feet formulae boat to explore the extent of the damage and conduct a detailed damage assessment. My assessment would include the location of the damaged areas and determine which part(s) of the boat sustained the most damage. I further need to inspect and assess damage sustained to the 25 feet Mastercraft to establish the angle of impact or ‘blow angle’ during the collision. A GRP fiberglass hull will not be able to absorb the impact or shock load of more than 3 knots in broadside on collision. The yield strength of the hull in the middle part is minimum compared to the bow and stern area where more rigid construction and framing are involved.
The exact time of the incident, the visibility conditions at the time of impact, and whether there were any imposed speed restrictions in the area are additional critical points which need to be considered. Witness and/or interview statements could also further augment the report by establishing what went wrong and the general impression of the case from the parties involved. I would also need to consider other factors, such as a D and A test which would be carried out by the local authority. If the Mastercraft is fitted with an onboard GPS receiver, I would be able to retrieve the previous track and voyage data from there.