Media coverage of 1950-1989 recreational boat propeller accidents.
- 27 March 1950 Times Picayune (Louisiana) “Man Saved; Hunt Friend on Coast” reports Thomas Patton and his uncle went out of a 26 foot power cruiser belonging to his uncle for a weekend fishing trip from New Orleans. They hit rough weather in the Mississippi Sound on 26 March. His uncle turned into Bayou Caddy at Lakeshore, the boat grounded, and Patton was ejected. His uncle jumped in and others onboard threw life rings and a life raft. Rough seas caused the boat to run over Patton and “the propeller ripped his thigh, knee and leg and stripped him of his clothing.” Those on board were able to recover the unconscious Patton, but could not find his uncle. A major search is underway for the uncle.
- 18 Jun 1950 “Propeller Slashes Girl Aquaplaner” Long Beach Telegram (California) reports from Atlantic City New Jersey that Norma Thompson 18 was in a speedboat when her husband fell off his aquaplane. She jumped from the speedboat to go to his rescue and “her left leg caught in the propeller of the boat and was badly mangled.” It was amputated above the knee later that night at Atlantic City Hospital.
- 26 Sep 1950 Oakland Tribune (California) “Rites Pending for Victim of Boat Mishap” reports Aubrey W. Hallam, a 36 year old man from Alameda, was on a pleasure fishing boat, Silver Fox, with several others outside the Golden Gate in very rough water on 25 September. The boat broke up off Point Bonita. He was apparently struck by the propeller. Five others were rescued alive, and one more gentleman perished in the accident.
- 23 Oct 1950 “Woman Hurt in Boat Fall” Long Beach Telegram (California) reports Kay Wilcox, age 25 of Huntington Park, slipped and fell while boarding an outboard boat yesterday in Marine Stadium. She suffered “severe cuts of the left leg and hip” and was taken to Community Hospital. Her “wounds inflicted by the propeller blades” took 50 stitches to close.
- 31 May 1950 “Killed in Boat Crash” New York Times reports from Burlington VT on May 30 that Charles F. Black, age 66, was fishing on a small boat with two other people on Lake Champlain. A speedboat crashed into and sank their vessel. Mr. Black’s left leg was severed between the knee and ankle by the speedboat’s propeller. The speedboat operator pulled the three men from the water. Mr. Black, a Burlington VT attorney, He died shortly later at Bishop de Goesbriand Hospital.
- RACING- 30 Apr 1951 “Speedboat Driver is Killed” New York Times published an AP report dated 29 Apr from Miami FL of Robert P. Cooper, age 30, piloting a Z Class Hydroplane during a regatta on Biscayne Bay today (29 Apr). He was thrown from the hydroplane, his jugular vein was cut by its propeller as his wife and 1,000 spectators watched.
- 11 Aug 1952 “Merrick Keeps Speed Boat Title As Injury to Driver Mars Regatta” New York Times reports a 19 Aug story from Hudson NY in which an accident at the Regional and New York Championships for Stock Outboards and Hydroplanes resulted in a serious shoulder injury to Homer Conie Jr, age 22 of Memphis NY. His boat, “Let’s Go”, capsized in the Hudson and he was hit by the propeller of another boat. “The propeller struck his left shoulder, severing tendons and at least one artery.” He was taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson.
- 17 Aug 1953 “Girl Falls From Speedboat, Mangled by Propeller” Oakland Tribune (California) reports Boni Buehler, a 25 year old stewardess from Hollywood California, was on Lake Arrowhead yesterday in a speedboat owned by Conrad Hilton (of the hotels) that involved several well known people including Geary Steffen (ex husband of actress Jane Powell) and Quay Sargeant (owner of a Los Angles music concern). It happened just 50 yards from Buster Crabb’s dock (the swimmer and actor) in the exclusive North Bay Section. She fell from the boat and was struck by its propeller. She was taken to Santa Anita Hospital with her left arm severed at the shoulder and her left leg mangled. Her left leg was amputated later that night. Her parents are in Scottsbluff Nebraska
The accident was heavily covered in the news, other reports indicate she was previously from Odgen Utah before her parents moved to Nebraska. By mid October she was headed back to Hollywood from her home and plans to work in the airline offices. She had earlier aspired to be an actress. She has also filed a lawsuit naming Conrad Hilton and forty others as defendants. She was to be fitted with an artificial arm about November 1st and an artificial leg about Christmas.
The case came to a conclusion in March 1956. She was awarded $265,000 in damages, including a hundred thousand from Geary Steffan, former ice skating partner of Sonja Henie. Mr. Steffan was earlier considered the hero for rescuing her, breathing air into her mouth, and sending her roses every day. When questioned earlier about why she included his name with others in the suit she had said that listing him was only a technicality as she had been asked to list everybody that might possible be involved.
At the time of the accident, Boni Buehler was rooming with Marjie Millar/Miller a “Glamorour Girl of the Silver Screen”. Miss Millar spent much of September 1953 at Miss Buehler’s side in the hospital. One of Miss Buehler’s lawyers, Mr. Melvin Belli was a very prominent lawyer known as “King of the Torts”. He introduced many concepts now frequently used and is best known for defending Jack Ruby (shot Lee Harvey Oswald). He even had a major role in a Star Trek episode. Mr. Belli later published a book with a photo of Miss Buehler on the cover titled, Ready for the Plaintiff. Another of Miss Buehler’s lawyers was a Senator. This accident perhaps had more ties to high profile people than any other before or since and is one of the highest profile propeller accidents of all time.
She went on to marry Charles Milton Blalack, Jr. to become Boni Buehler Blalack and they had their first child on Christmas Day 1957.
- 28 Aug 1953 “Boat Operator Pleads Innocent” The Holland Evening Sentinel (Michigan) reports a 22 year old man was swimming in Spring Lake when a 15 foot boat driven by a 19 year old girl hit him. His legs legs were stuck by the propeller “causing compound fractures in both legs and severe cuts of the tendons of the right heel.” She took him to shore in a rowboat where he was given medical treatment by a Spring Lake physician, then taken by ambulance to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon. The young woman pleaded not guilty to charge of reckless use of a motor boat and the trial is set for next week.
- 4 Oct 1954 “Propeller Kills Man Overboard” The Washington Post reports a 3 Oct AP story from Annapolis MD of Dennis J. Wright falling from his 18 foot boat on Saturday and being struck by the propeller. It severed his jugular vein and he died. Mr. Wright was from Catonsville.
- 16 Dec 1954 “C.E. Hooper Killed: Radio Rating Head” New York Times reports a 15 Dec story from Salt Lake City UT in which Claude Ernest Hooper, age 56 of South Norwalk CT, well known for the Hooper method of radio surveys, was killed at Lake Front Duck Club on the Great Salt Lake. He and a companion were in an AIRBOAT that lodged on a sandbar. Mr. Hooper got out to push and was struck in the head by the propeller. He was taken to Latter Day Saints Hospital and died a few minutes after arrival. He started a business based on the idea of calling hundreds of people to see what radio shows they were listening to at that moment to measure the impact of specific radio stations on the advertising market vs prior methods of calling up people and asking them what they recalled hearing in the past. His business was later sold to A.C. Nielson (now does similar reporting on television).
- 10 Sep 1958 Daily Independence (Monessen PA) “River Victim is Reported Improved” reports Margaret Smith, a four year old girl from Charleroi, was floating on an inner tube in Monongahela River last Saturday (6 Sept). A 17 year old boat operator said he did not see her and she was struck by the propeller of his boat. The young girl is in Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh recovering from surgery for a “depressed skull fracture” and other injuries.
- 15 Sep 1958 Humbolt Standard (Eureka CA) “Boat Prop Cuts Off Boy’s Arm’ reports Herman Koelewyn, age 11 of Hanford, was water skiing on Lake Millerton late Friday 12 September. He jumped into the water to recover some water skis and was ran over by a motorboat (report is unclear if this was the boat he was in or not). His “left arm was severed above the elbow and he suffered several gashes in the abdomen when struck by the propeller of the boat…” He was taken to Fresno County General Hospital.
- 25 April 1959 St. Petersburg Times (Florida) “Sponge Diver Killed When Air Hose Cut” reports George R. Gause Sr., a 56 year old male from St. Petersburg, was sponge diving about 30 miles north of Big Bank 11 am April 24th. The boat’s propeller fouled his air hose and he was dead when the crew pulled him to the surface.
- 19 May 1959 Appleton Post Crescent (Wisconsin) “Woman Killed in Boat Collision” reports Ella Kalish, age 67 of Chicago, was boating on Eagle Lake Sunday 17 May. She was fishing with her daughter and grandson. A powerboat pushed the stern of her boat underwater. “She died of injuries suffered when struck by the propeller of a power boat”. Her daughter and grandson were treated for shock.
- 30 July 1959 Fresno Bee Daily Republican (California) “Water Skier Run Over By Boat Dies of Injuries” reports Jack L. Wininger, age 29, was water skiing on Millerton Lake on July 12th. He fell and was struck by the propeller of a boat driven by an 18 year old male. “His leg was all but severed and he was cut on the chest and the abdomen.” He lost his leg and later died in a local hospital this morning 30 July. He had previously recovered enough to use a wheel chair.
- 30 July 1959 Tri-City Herald (Tri-Cities WA) “Boat Prop Cuts Youth” reports Donald Pauley, age 17 of Sunnyside, was swimming in the Yakima River yesterday (29 July). He dove in from a boat dock and was struck by the propeller of a boat driven by a 17 year old male coming into the dock. Pauley was cut on his chin and arm. He was taken to Prosser Memorial Hospital by ambulance.
- DIFFICULT RESCUE – 23 November 1959 Los Angeles Times (California) “Skin Diver, Hit by Boat, Falls From Copter, Dies” reports Harold B. Gavenman of Canoga Park California was skin diving on Saturday 21 November 1959 off Santa Barbara Island. He was one of several diving from a barge (the Villaron) in an island cove. He surfaced in front of an oncoming lobster boat and “was sucked into the propeller.” The lobster boat operator jumped in and pulled him onboard, radioed for help, and took him by boat to the barge. An Air Force helicopter made 30 attempts to secure a line to him. Once they were successful, when he was raised about 100 feet in the liter basket, the cable broke and he was dropped onto the barge and rolled off the side. Those on the barge were able to recover him, then took him by a fast power boat cruiser to Santa Catalina Island, he was then life flighted from to Newport Beach and pronounced dead on arrival at Hoag Memorial Hospital.
- 25 July 1960 “Boater Drowns on Lake Mead” Reno Evening Gazette reports Richard F. Meister, age 29 of Las Vegas, was alone on his 14 foot outboard boat Sunday on Lake Mead and apparently fell in at Callville Wash. Some other boaters saw his boat running in circles and he was trying to catch it as it passed. Some fishermen saw the boat apparently hit him, he slipped underwater and did not re-surface. Park Rangers recovered the body and said “it had been hit by the boat’s propeller.”
- 23 Oct 1960 Accident Date – Hick J. Cheramie, Jr. was injured by a boat propeller when they fell from a boat and were struck in the right arm by the motor’s propeller. Per suit, Lyon K. Loomis M.D. v. The Travelers Insurance Company et al. No. 1620. Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit. 169 So. 2d 544; 1964 La. App. LEXIS 2107. December 7, 1964
- Commercial Vessel – 21 Oct 1963 “Champ Swimmer, Hit by Tug, Is on Critical List” reports a 20 Oct AP story of Jim Small, a former University of California swimming champion was hit 20 October in San Francisco Bay and lost his left leg.
A 24 Oct 1963 report in the Los Angeles Times indicates Mr. Small also lost his other leg and died on Wednesday at Letterman Army Hospital.
- 12 June 1964 Accident Date – a woman was learning to water ski on Blind River, about eight miles upstream of Lake Maurepas. She had fallen and the boat, operated by Mr. Swayze, circled to pick her up for another try. Mr. Roy was also skiing. The boat stopped to pick him up first. Mr. Roy thought the boat was stopped and he wanted to pull a cushion from the front of the boat for extra floatation as his ski belt was not providing enough floatation. He reached over the side into the front seat and started to kick off with his legs, but his right leg went under the boat and was severely cut by the outboard motor’s propeller. The boat operator reports he thinks Mr. Roy was picked up first and chose to hang onto the side of the boat while the boat moved to the position of the woman learning to ski, as it got close to her, he pushed off and was injured. Per suit, Paul R. Roy v. William B. Swayze, Jr., et al. No. 6941. Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit. 194 So. 2d 109; 1966 La. App. LEXIS 4459. December 28, 1966
- 3 July 1967 Dallas Morning News (Texas) “Lake Accident Claims Boy, 14” reports Vernon Sutter Jr., age 14, was riding on the bow of a motor boat on Lake Grapevine on 2 July. He fell in, was stuck by the propeller, and died. Officials are still trying to recover his body.
A 6 July DMN report indicates his body was found.
- 1967/1968 Accident Date – Sportingo “Ouch! The Top Ten Freak Sports Injuries” reports Fred Titmus, vice captain of England’s Cricket team was in the West Indies during their 1967/1968 tour when his foot was caught in the propeller of a boat. “He lost four toes and for a time there was a doubt whether he would ever play again.”
- 9 March 1968 Accident Date – 2 August 1968 Panama City News (Florida) “Resident Files $1 Million Suit” reports Gary Hundley, a Panama City Jr. High School student was on his fathers boat on 9 March. The anchor attachment connecting the Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) outboard’s steering to the boat’s steering mechanism broke, the boat veered, he fell in, and he was stuck by its propeller. The suit contends the part that broke was the result of negligence on OMC’s behalf.
- 24 August 1968 Accident Date – J. Hall, a 13 year old girl from Petersburg Texas, “received serious cuts on her legs from a boat propeller while water skiing” on Sunday August 25th, 1968 on White River Lake per the “Back in Time” column in MyPlainview.com on 26 August 2008.
- 20 May 1969 “Boat Accident Fatal to Doctor” The Washington Post reports Dr. Sam Pascoe, fell from his boat, was struck by the propeller and drowned on Sunday. He was a 44 year old cardiologist from Falls Church VA.
- 13 March 1973 Naples Daily News “Injured Water Skier Undergoes Surgery” reports Ellen Poteet, age 15, was skiing on Little Marco Pass on Saturday 12 March with two younger brothers and three
friends. She dropped off her skis and was swimming to the boat. Another boat approached. the operator of the boat pulling Ellen shouted a warning and put the boat in gear. Ellen’s leg was caught in the inboard outboard propeller and ground up to her hip. Rescuers held her head up and eventually removed the propeller from the boat. She was taken to the beach with the prop still embedded in her thigh, and on to Naples Community Hospital.
- 17 June 1974 “Three Die in Water Mishaps” Modesto Bee (California) AP news reports Thomas Debrick, a 58 year old man from San Jose, was killed Saturday 15 June 1974 while swimming trying to help two teenage boys swimming in rough water. He was struck by the propeller of a houseboat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
- 13 Aug 1974 Accident Date – John Henry Harris was with his daughter and some friends in a boat on Lake Bistineau. They were going about 15mph when an insect stung him on the face, he flinched, the outboard turned abruptly, his pedestal seat broke loose, he was thrown into the water and struck by the prop in the right knee, right shoulder and forearm. Per suit, John Henry Harris, et al v. W.O. Bardwell dba Bardwell Marina, et al. No. 13876. Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit. 373 So. 2d 777; 1979 La. App. LEXIS 2840. June 29, 1979.
- 20 August 1974 Dallas Morning News (Texas) “Man, 43, Killed” reports Sam Roberts, age 43 from Amarillo, fell from his 21 foot boat on Lake Meredith near Borger Texas today (20 August) while manuevering to pickup a skier, was struck by the propeller, and died of his injuries.
- 3 Sep 1974 “A Boating Day to Remember” New York Times reports on a 3 Sept 1974 accident at a picnic the day before school restarted near Jones Inlet Jetty. Their boat was in the area where the Bay meets the ocean. A big wave reared up the boat and ejected three boys that were kneeling in the stern. The boat righted itself and “went wild”. All three boys were hit by the propeller. Brian Robbins of Merrick Long Island was injured the most severely. He was flown by Coast Guard helicopter to the hospital. Doctors spent five hours trying to save his arm, which eventually had to be amputated below the elbow. He has since had five operations and will eventually be fitted with an artificial limb.
- 1975 – Accident Year – 26 June 2008 Oakland Business Review (MI) reports Roger McCarville of Ortonville, owner and host of Disabilities Today show on PBS reported he “fell off a boat and the propeller cut off my legs” thirty five years ago. Mr. Carville has just been appointed to represent the disabled on Michigan’s Statewide Independent Living Council.
- 1975 – Accident Year – Todd Huston, then age 14, severely injured his legs when they were struck by a propeller. A few years later he lost one of them and went on to become a well known motivational speaker (see toddhuston.com).
- Sue Ehrardt struck at age 31 on Silver Strand a California State Beach. The boat’s shifting mechanism failed. The boat operator tried to go forward, but he boat went backward, the propeller fully severed her left leg and severely cut her right leg. She spent three months in the hospital. In 2014, at age 68, a golf instructor assisted her in being able to play golf with her friends.
- July 1980 Accident Date – 10 Oct 2008 Edmonton Journal (Canada) “Woman Dedicated to Helping Those Who Suffer Serious Injuries” reports Kathy Belton was swimming with a friend on Laurier Lake near Elk Point in July 1980. Another friend, getting ready to pull some water skiers, drove by to splash them. The propeller cut her arm in half and a chip from her skull went into her brain. She was unconscious for two weeks in Edmonton Royal Alexandria Hospital. Today she is the associate director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (part of the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health) where she helps others with serious injuries, and helps prevent serious injuries.
- 8 Feb 1983 “Man Files Suit for $250,000 in Boating Accident” The Capitol (Annapolis MD) reports Joseph R. Cuppy III of Capitol Heights was a guest on a houseboat back on 4 July 1982. The houseboat operator was backing the houseboat into the slip of another boat at Pier 7 Marina on South River when the boat that slip belonged to was also maneuvering into the slip, Mr. Cuppy went overboard and was struck the propeller. He fell over at the back of the boat and is suing in Circuit Court saying the houseboat did not have a safety chain across the back.
- 25 March 1983 “Gruesome Tale of Horror May Eventually Save Lives” Miami Herald (FL) reports Outboard bass boats equipped with stick steering that was too sensitive have killed so many people most manufacturers dropped it by 1979. It has been banned from tournaments ran by BASS and the U.S. Coast Guard reports injuries continue to happen as boats are passed on to second and third owners. Errol Egner and his brother were at North Miami Beach earlier this month and borrowed their dad’s boat to fish in the Everglades. The 15 foot Terry built in 1977 powered by a 50 HP Johnson outboard had been purchased from a neighbor last year. The “stick steer” boat was developed for bass fishing in narrow trails, canals and marshes. About 4:30 pm driving back to Sawgrass at about 35 mph, Errol swerved to miss an alligator, the boat did a big loop and Errol was thrown into the water face up and he was struck by the propeller. “When the boat came around in a circle, and that’s when the prop literally chopped his face off.” The stainless steel prop cut off his nose and jaw and made deep lacerations in his throat and chest. His brother dove and rescued him, found him not breathing and attempted to administer artificial respiration, but “with the big hole where his nose and jaw used to be, whenever I tried to give him artificial respiration, the air just bubbled out somewhere else.” He was finally able to get him breathing, they were about 9 miles in and he was bleeding from “a nicked jugular vein.” His brother tried to hold the vein shut with one hand and drive with the other. Errol lived and is now recovering at Bennett Community Hospital in Broward County. His brother reports “medical bills are already astronomical.” Starcraft boats now owns Terry and has since greatly improved the stick system, but sales are slow due to the historical reputation of the system. The article includes a considerable discussion of the stick system and other accidents.
- February 1984 Accident Date in Australia – 3 May 2011 Herald Sun (Australia) “John Coombes Helped Murder Man to Keep Victim’s Car” reports a man appeared to become interested in purchasing a car from Michael Speirani, age 20, got Mr. Speirani drunk, then launched a small boat with Mr. Speirani onboard into the shipping lanes at Carrum. The victim was stabbed, beaten, and repeatedly ran over by a boat to make sure he was dead which resulted in his body being mutilated by the propeller and never being recovered. The case has just been tried in Melbourne Magistrates Court.
- 11 June 1984 “Lawyer Dies When Struck by Boat While Snorkeling” Miami Herald (FL) reports Eduardo Posada, age 33 of Coral Gables, was about 300 feet offshore in the Coral Gables Waterway. He was hit by a 19 foot boat named the Rabalo. The boat operator said he saw one diver, swerved to miss him and hit Posada. He came back, picked him up and took him to the marina where he was pronounced dead of a propeller impact. The accident occurred about 4:45 pm Sunday 10 June.
- About 1985 accident date – 24 June 2018 Lubbock Online (TX) “No denying him: Amputee athlete discovers his niche in triathlon” reports Chris Madison now and attorney in Arkansas was on a jet ski (personal watercraft) back when he was ten years old (is now 43) when he was struck by the propeller of a parasail boat. He lost a lower leg but managed to participate in high school sports. Now with the improvements in technology, he has been able to participate in triathlons.
- 15 April 1985 “Idea from Movie Saves Girl’s Life” The Globe and Mail (UK on a US accident) reports from Oroville California, an eight year old girl became caught in a houseboat propeller on Lake Oroville. He father recalled seeing someone carry lungs full of air to someone underwater in the movie, Sometimes a Great Nation. He used that technique to keep his daughter alive till he could free her from the propeller. She was taken to Oroville Hospital and was laughing and joking with nurses after surgery on her broken arm.
- 24 May 1985 Boone County Journal (reprinted in 20 May 2010 Columbia Tribune as “25 Years Ago”) reports Larry Morgan of Claysville was boating with his daughter and his 13 year old stepdaughter on the Osage River near St. Thomas. The boat struck a log, he was ejected, and “cut badly on the hands by the boat’s propeller.” His stepdaughter implemented what she had learned from a session led by the water safety patrol at her school, and rescued him which
was more complicated due to him being a non-swimmer.
- 29 May 1985 Sacramento Bee (Calif) “Two Charged in Lake Shasta Boating Deaths” reports Thomas Morrish, 22 of Calgary Alberta Canada and Lauri Chiarette, 22 of Fullerton California, were being towed on a water sled behind a 1985 inboard boat on May 25th, they fell, the boat circled to pick them up, and they were ran over by the boat. An autopsy showed Morrish died of a skull fracture and brain laceration. Officials said it had not yet been determined if it was from metal stabilizing fins on the hull or from the prop. Chiaretta’s body is still being searched for. The inflatable sled was about two feet wide and 15 feet long. They were both part of a Oregon State University students that rented 7 houseboats. Two men in the ski boat that stuck them have been charged.
- 10 June 1985 “Water Skier Suffers Propeller Injuries” Boston Globe reports from Jefferson Maine that John Murray, 18 of Waldaboro, suffered leg and head injuries in a boat propeller accident while skiing in windy conditions on Damariscotta Lake. Four persons in the boat towing him, including the boat operator fell into the water. He was in guarded condition at an Augusta hospital yesterday.
- 8 January 1986 San Diego Union (California) “Rev. John Clifford Parker: Priest Dies After Boating Accident Struck in Head by Propeller As Craft Overturns” reports Rev. John Clifford Parker, a 50 year old priest at St. Phillip’s Catholic Church in Pasadena was in a small outboard boat with another man off Moonlight Beach State Park shortly after 3 pm the afternoon of 7 January. The boat was struck by a wave, capsized, “the priest was had been hit in the head with the propeller”, lifeflighted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, and declared dead about 4 pm.
- 6 July 1987 “Spectator at Fireworks Killed in Fall Into River” New York Times reports Ira Kestenbaum, 37 year old male from Ossing NY, was watching the Manhattan fireworks display Saturday night July 4th from a friends 28 foot boat with about 11 people on board in the East River. He was sitting in the bow when the boat hit a wave shortly after the fireworks display, fell overboard, “and his left arm was severed by a boat’s propeller.” (report does not specify if it was the propeller of the boat he was in or not). Several other boats nearby tried to help him, including a doctor on one of them. Mr. Kestenbaum was taken to New York Hospital where he died.
- 7 Sep 1987 “Props Are a Deadly Problem” Orlando Sentinel (FL) reports Theresa Hill, 15, fell from a boat August 29th, was struck in the head by its propeller, and died August 30th. at Orlando Regional Medical Center. The accident happened shortly after two doctors (Dr. Charles Price and Dr. Charles Moorefield) published an article in the Florida Journal of Medicine after polling about half the members of the Florida Orthopedic Society. The approximately 200 members polled only represent a small fraction of the state’s over 20,000 physicians, but they reported treating 195 propeller injuries between 1979 to 1983. During the same period, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 30 cases. It goes on to report several other recent propeller injuries in Central Florida:
- Boat hit a river piling, threw out eight passengers, started circling on its own and killed two people with its propeller
- Teenage girl received severe propeller cuts to here knee, calf, and heel when she fell from the rear of a boat
- Ski boat struck a woman in a canoe killing her with its propeller
- Police boat hit a snorkeler killing him with the propeller
- 29 May 1988 per Ard V. Brunswick and Glasstron court case, on this date Robert Leroy Ard was preparing to waterski ski when a motorboat backed over him on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
- Approximately 1988 – 11 May 2008 Tampabay.com “Toney Hall Overcame Severe Hand Injuries to Relearn Guitar” reports an update on a local guitar player and singer. 20 years ago (about 1988) he was water skiing in Virginia on Claytor Lake with some friends. The boat “lurched”, he fell in, and was struck by the propeller. Both his hands were very severely injured. He later had two surgeries on his right hand and thirteen on his left. He lost his left thumb and much of the feeling and strength of his left hand. Doctors suggested he give up the guitar. He switched from playing right handed to playing left handed and created a special pick and brace. Toney played 375 gigs in 2007.
- COMMERCIAL VESSEL – TERRORISM 12 July 1988 Washington Post “Nine Killed, Scores Hurt in Attack on Greek Ferry” reports three masked men opened fire from onboard a crowed Greek island ferry, the 200 foot City of Poros, about 8:30pm today. City of Poros was carrying passengers from the island of Aegina to a marina in Paleo Faliron, a suburb of Athens. Nine passengers are dead and as many as seventy are unaccounted for. During the chaos of submachine gun fire, and grenades, some of the 500 passengers on board jumped into the water. Police said, “Some of them were dismembered by the ship’s propeller” Those responsible for the shooting were picked up by a speedboat that pulled up alongside. Later, an explosion of a rental car near where the ferry was to dock was thought to have killed two people involved in the attack. The explosion was thought to have been a botched attempt to blow up the car when the passengers disembarked, but instead it blew up the two men.
- COMMERCIAL VESSEL- 24 December 1989 Accident Date – 28 December 1988 Palm Beach Post (Florida) “Friends, Customers Raise $500 for Burial of Hot Dog Vendor” reports Carl Bernhard, known as Carl the Hot Dog Man, peddled hot dogs from his 29 foot pontoon boat for five years outside the Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno. About 5:30pm Christmas Day fell from his boat and was fatally struck by its propeller while trying to crawl back in. Friends and customers around the beach are raising funds for his burial.
- 1989 West Indies Accident Date – 12 July 2010 The Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia Canada) “Left Hand Knows What the Right Did” reports Frans Aeyelts was on holiday in 1989 at St. Martens in the West Indies. He was ejected from a Boston Whaler that was circling. It was near a shore of women and children on the beach, so he swam to the boat to try to stop it. He was a right handed painter (artist). His right arm was mangled by the propeller. He was taken to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico. After his return to Nova Scotia, he had 13 more surgeries to his arm. Now he paints again, but this time with his left hand.
- COMMERCIAL VESSEL 20 Aug 1989 accident – 22 March 1995 The Independent (London England) “Survivor Left Crippled by Police Rescue Boat” reports an update on a 1989 accident called the Marchioness disaster. J. Jackie, a 62 year old woman, was employed on the boat as a tarot card reader. The Marchioness, a passenger launch, was hit by a dredger, the Bowbelle, in the Thames River. The Marchioness sank, and 51 lives were lost. At least one person was injured by propellers during rescue efforts. J. Jackie was trapped by a table lying on her clothes. She was hit on the head by people swimming over her. She eventually escaped through a hole in the Marionchess. She saw a police launch coming, the boat hit her in the face. “I rolled under the boat and my leg got chopped up in the propeller.” She told police they probably hit others as well.
- 4 Sept 1989 “Calling Out the Guard // Injuries Prompt Drive for Protective Cages on Boat Propellers” St. Peterburg Times Floridian section reports B. Yesh was injured by a propeller in June. He was thrown from the boat in a turn, the boat circled at full throttle, he tried to dive, but “the blades nearly severed Yesh’s fourth and fifth right toes and left gashes from his knee to his upper thigh.” He has since had six operations and expects to be disabled for two years. The article appears to be one of several in this time frame by the Institute for Injury Reduction. It goes on to discuss serveral other accidents and industry responses.
- 11 Sept 1989 “Tragedy Brings Plea for Safer Boats: Woman Killed by Propeller Will be Buried Tuesday With Her Premature Baby” Orlando Sentinel (FL) reports Laura Hepler, 23 of Kissimmee, fell from her brother in laws 16 foot boat on Lake Topopekaliga on Labor Day (Sept 4th). She was trying to catch her visor (cap), fell overboard and under the boat, striking her head on the propeller. Six months pregnant, doctor’s delivered 1 pound 10 ounce Shawna Kathlan Hepler by Caesarean section before operating on her mother. The baby died 16 hours later. The mother, losing a 4 inch diameter piece of her skull, died Sunday 10 Sept. This article also references one of the Institute of Injury Reduction press releases coming out the week of the accident (IIR was formed by a group of interested parties 18 months earlier to encourage the boating industry to install propeller protective devices.)
- 28 Sept 1989 “Grisly Accidents Spark Campaign for Guards on Boat Propellers” Orlando Sentinel (FL) reports how the Institute for Injury Reduction will be encouraging the Coast Guard to require propeller guards at a November 7th advisory panel in Orlando. Some accidents of specific propeller accidents they noted include:
- The recent death of Laura Kathleen Hepler and her premature daughter (see 11 Sept news item above)
- Lawyer Linda Barnby of Orlando had a leg amputated several years ago after a severe propeller cut while water skiing
- A 1982 accident involving then 14 year old Ashley Elliot of Sheffield AL after she jumped into a lake as part of a high school social club initiation. She was permanently disfigured
- 1989 Accident Date – 4 November 2009 News-Press (Fort Myers Florida) “Cape Coral Amputee Gets Donated Prosthetic With Help of Friend” reports Cindy Linton now 37, was 17 the summer a boat wake knocked her overboard on the Caloosahatchee River. The boat’s propeller struck her. Doctors had to amputate her left leg, but were able to save her right one. She has now worn the same prosthetic leg for 20 years. She had to adjust it to stay straight and has developed a bad limp. Her insurance company dropped her after the accident. An ampufriend recently helped her obtain a new leg free from an Orlando based prosthetic firm.
The article also mentions an accident 10 years earlier in which J. Lindsay Builder Jr., a Winter Park Lawyer, then 31 and his daughter were riding in an inner tube pulled by his wife when they were struck by another boat. The propeller “severed Builder’s left arm, sliced deep gashes in his side, punctured his lung and broke several ribs.
It reports an Alabama jury recently awarded Ashley Elliot $4.5 million in damages from Mercury Marine, but the case is on appeal. To appeal to those insisting guards created even greater hazards to swimmers in the water, Ben Hogan, lawyer supporting the Elliot family, hired a stuntman to be hit by a boat with a propeller guard. Dick Snyder of Mercury Marine (long time voice against use of prop guards), said the stuntman test was inconclusive, plus trying to limit boat owners to slower speeds is unrealistic.