A friendly boat race to kick off a northern California yacht club's annual "Beer Can" races turned into a tragedy on April 16. A 42-foot sailboat crashed into a channel buoy, causing the mast to break off. One of the boat's passengers died and another suffered serious injuries.
The two were guests of the boat's owner. At the time of the accident, four people were on board. Another boat witnessed the crash and rescued them. The deceased passenger died at the scene. The injured passenger was taken to an area hospital with a head injury and, at last report, he was listed as being in serious condition.
Meanwhile, investigators are attempting to determine whether the mast or the impact caused the injuries to the two men. As part of the investigation, California officials considered whether alcohol could have contributed to the crash. Despite the name of the race, the boat's owner passed sobriety tests given to him by police. Their efforts indicate that it was not a factor.
Investigators also ruled out the weather as a cause. It could take some time before investigators sort out the details and complete their report. It may not be until that report is filed that a determination is made regarding whether charges, if any, will be filed against the owner of the boat.
Even if no criminal proceedings are initiated, the owner could still end up in court. Both the family of the deceased passenger and the passenger who suffered serious injuries retain the right to file civil actions in connection with this tragic accident. If the boat owner is found negligent in some way, the court may award damages to the family and the seriously injured man.
Source: dailyrepublic.com, "1 dead, 1 injured in California boating accident", April 18, 2014