This past Saturday, September 8, 2012, a 31 year old man from Danvers, Massachusetts survived a devastating incident that had initially mystified authorities. Karl Marchionda had just finished loading ten gallons of fuel into his Sea Doo GTX 155 personal watercraft. While alone in the craft at Long Lake Marina on Long Lake in Naples of western Maine, at around 4:50pm, he attempted to start the engine. The PWC then exploded. Karl was launched twenty feet into the air, crashing face first into the dock, according to witnesses. Parts of the craft, including the cover to the engine, coasted through the air for sixty feet.
According to the District Game Warden, Neal Wykes, sparks ignited vapors in the hull of the vessel when Marchionda attempted to activate the engine. There was no immediate determination of what caused the explosion. But after further review, Wykes ascertained that a mechanism that secured the fuel lines to the gas tank had become loose. This allowed fuel to enter the hull of the watercraft. Apparently the gas fumes were ignited when the engine started. Fortunately the blaze was quickly extinguished by the marina’s owner, James Davenport.
For Marchionda, though his injuries weren’t threatening to his life, and he was conscious and responsive when Wykes arrived, he had no recollection of the explosion or of being thrown through the air and landing on the dock. The Massachusetts resident was eventually taken to Bridgton Hospital with several broken ribs, two fractured vertebrae, abrasions, and lacerations to the face. The authorities from the Cumberland County Sherriff’s Office and rescuers from Naples Fire and Rescue are presently still investigating the incident.
I was especially curious about this story because I just wrote a blog about an exploding personal watercraft only a few weeks ago. What struck me hardest is that the explosions can be of such magnitude that a human being can be thrown for twenty feet. Also, I was amazed, though relieved, that an explosion like that didn’t leave any burn marks on the victim. After looking up several reviews for the Sea Doo GTX 155 on several watercraft websites, the reputation of the vessel appears to be commendable. The Sea Doo GTX series specifically has been a product of Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products since 1994.
But what I’m most reminded of is the rise of Personal Watercraft injuries throughout the years. Most incidents come about through human error: inexperience, lack of proper training, or, as is too often the case with on-road vehicles, inebriation.
In 2009, the United States Coast Guard numbered 4,730 accidents involved with recreational boating. Seventy-five percent of those deaths resulted from drowning with eighty-four percent of those victims not wearing life jackets. But what really makes recreational boating, especially with the compact PWCs, a venture that must be respected for its hazards, is that seven out of ten of those mortality victims were in boats of less than twenty-one feet. I love my time on the water as much as anyone. And sometimes elements beyond our control like faulty manufacturing may lead to a personal injury that requires the assistance of professional counsel.
But above all, we just want to take care and be smart when having that much deserved fun. And if you, or anyone you may be close to, have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Altman and Altman at your earliest convenience.