Since the advent of recreational power boating in the U.S. in the early 1900’s, tens of thousand people have been struck by propellers and over a thousand killed. A few of those accidents standout above the rest in the mind of the general public and/or in our mind as somehow being more significant than the others. With our memories being short lived our list is weighted more toward the present.
This page makes an effort to individually identify high profile recreational boat propeller accidents in the U.S. as well as a few from around the world. A few non-recreational accidents were listed due to their extensive coverage in the press.
Our list of high profile propeller accidents is obviously heavily loaded with more recent accidents. Over time, some of those will fade away in the public’s memory to be replaced by future accidents. A few will remain, like those on the list from the distant past.
Yes, we know many propeller accidents caused tremendous struggles and grief but are not listed below. We just feel these had a greater awareness among the general public or impacted the problem in some way more significantly than those not listed. Accidents we identified as being most significant tend to fall into one or more of the categories listed below.
- High profile people (celebrity, professional athlete, entertainer, etc)
- Young “beautiful” people
- Horrendous Injuries
- Pregnant Women
- Involved a Hit and Run boat operator
- Heroic Acts of Sacrifice and One Person Pushed Another Out of the Way
- More Than One Person Struck in Same Accident
- The “Story” Unfolded Over Several Days in the National Press
- Struck in a Foreign Country by People of Status
- Something Unusual Was Involved
- Resulted in a Major Court Case
- Resulted in an Advocate for Propeller Safety
- Resulted in Someone Pursuing Solutions to the Problem
- Use of new medical techniques
- A criminal was involved
- Received major publicity outside the United States
We purposely did not select a propeller accident involving recreational divers as we found it difficult to distinguish any one of them from the others and they typically involved very similar circumstances.
If you are aware of a high profile propeller accident that is not listed here, or feel one should be listed that is not, please contact us.
More information on many of the accidents listed here is available from our annual coverage of propeller accidents reported in the media.
The accidents are listed in their order of occurrence below.
- 31 May 1903 Lewis Maithew was on Bellingham Bay in the State of Washington in his launch. He walked off the stern when it was underway, and was struck and killed by its propeller. This is the earliest recreational boat propeller accident we have on file. Mr. Maithew was a young businessman.
- 18 June 1931 Six People Injured by a Propeller. A speed boat made a sharp turn in Hempstead Harbor off Glen Cove New York, was upset and sank with six women and two men onboard. Six of them were injured by the boat’s propeller. Nicholas Demidoff, age 28 year, was unconscious from his injuries. Elizabeth Dunn, age 21, had deep lacerations on the face and body. Four others were treated for cuts and bruises. This is the most people injured by the propeller of a single recreational boat that we are aware of. It was reported by the New York Times.
A 29 September 2008 accident near Seattle Washington resulted in one fatality and seven injured. Many of those injured plus the fatality may have been due to propellers. The exact number has yet to be confirmed.
- Approx 14 July 1935 Ruffner Hill, 23, and Roy Taylor, 22, were on a speedboat on the Potomac River near Fairview Beach,Virginia. They were both ejected, the boat began to circle at full throttle, the men dove repeatedly to keep from being struck by the boat and propeller. Taylor was eventually struck in the shoulder, the prop kicked up, and the unmanned boat stopped. Jill was struck in the head and drowned (the New York Times report does not specifically indicate if Hill was struck by the prop or by the boat). This is the earliest Circle of Death Accident we have positively identified from media reports.
- 28 Jun 1949 Imogene Wittche, age 13, of Roseville California was swimming with another thirteen year old girl in Lake Tahoe. A 115 HP runabout thought they passed the girls by a wide margin, but bore down on them. A 30 June report Nevada State Journal indicates one of her feet was cut off by the propeller and the other had to be amputated. She is in the hospital and thinks both her feet were reattached by the hospital and she will be up and active in a few weeks. Her father is grieving over how to tell her and the doctors say she should not be told for some time. Other reports indicate the accident was a hit and run. Investigators shortly tracked down the boat operator and a trial was held in October 1949.
- 16 August 1953 Boni Buehler, a 25 year old stewardess from Hollywood California, was on Lake Arrowhead in a speedboat owned by Conrad Hilton (of Hilton 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 Olympic swimmer and actor) in the exclusive North Bay Section. She fell from the boat and was struck by its propeller. Miss Buehler 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. Miss Buehler’s parents are in Scottsbluff Nebraska. She filed a lawsuit naming Conrad Hilton and forty others as defendants. She was to be fitted with an artificial arm an artificial leg in late 1953. 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 in the hospital every day. 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 attorney (known as the “King of Torts” and later defended Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby). Mr. Belli later published a book with a photo of Miss Buehler on the cover titled, Ready for the Plaintiff. He also appeared in a Star Trek episode. This accident perhaps had more ties to high profile people than any other before or since. We cover the Boni Buehler accident in-depth at Boni Buehler – 1953 Boat Propeller Accident
- 1975 Todd Huston, then age 14, got his legs caught in a boat’s propeller. He battled to keep his legs with numerous surgeries, but bone disease eventually forced him to have one leg amputated seven years later. He went on to to climb many mountains and is currently a well known motivational speaker (see toddhouston.com).
- 15 April 1985 Elizabeth Woodman, an eight year old California girl, became caught in a houseboat propeller on Lake Oroville. Her 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.
- September 1985 Jim Nelford, a promising PGA golfer from Canada who started playing on the PGA tour in 1978, was water skiing on Saguaro Lake near Phoenix Arizona. He was struck by a boat propeller, he suffered life threatening injuries, his right arm was broken in nine places, he spent four weeks in the hospital and his PGA Tour effectively ended. Doctors said he would never play golf again. He turned to sports casting and became an analyst for the Canadian Opens, Skin Games, and the PGA Tour. In 2007 he seriously returned to competitive golf, joined the 2007 Champions Tour, purchased a 36 foot motor home, and drives from tournament to tournament. He shot a 66 to qualify for the 2007 FedEx Kinkos Classic in Austin.
- 4 Sept (Labor Day) 1989 Laura Hepler, 23 of Kissimmee, fell from her brother in laws 16 foot boat on Lake Topopekaliga in Florida. 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.
- 10 August 1990 Kevin Fitzpatrick, age 16, was swimming at Pat Cong Creek Cover, near Ocean City, N.J. when he was struck and killed by a propeller. A lawsuit brought by his mother was initially awarded them $1 million from Outboard Marine Corporation. That judgement was reversed in March of 1993.
- 7 May 1992 Stacy Epping and about other 20 students from Oregon State University had rented two houseboats on Shasta Lake near Redding California. She was swimming behind one of them and was pulled into the propeller. She was rapidly transported to Redding Medical Center with terrible injuries. Doctors and nurses worked on her for 5 hours and used 60 pints of blood to save her life. A lawsuit was later filed claiming the resort was negligent when it didn’t properly instruct the boat renters on how to operate the boat and that the company was negligent because there was no guard around the propeller.
- 21 March 1993 Emilio Irving Cruz, a college junior, was on a spring break rental houseboat trip at Lake Havasu in Arizona with about 70 college students from the University of San Diego including many members of his fraternity. Several houseboats were tied (rafted) together near Copper Canyon and Friendly Island. Emilio Cruz and a friend dove off the roof of the rear of one of the houseboats apparently unaware it was about to be started and backed up. He was pulled into the propeller about 4pm and life flighted to Las Vegas, but died in route. His mother, Marion Irving deCruz went on to found SPIN (Stop Propeller Injuries Now) a leading advocate for reducing propeller injuries and has kept propeller safety in the fore front for many years.
- 6 Jun 1993 On June 6, 1993, Kathryn Lewis, an Oklahoma teenage girl, spent the day with her boyfriend’s family on Strom Thurmond Lake in Georgia. The boat was pulling her boyfriend on a tube, turned sharply to the right, and she was ejected to the left side of the boat. The propeller struck her several times in the head and body, and she died instantly. A major lawsuit (Lewis v. Brunswick) was later filed by her family against Brunswick (Lewis v. Brunswick). The decision in favor of Brunswick was upheld in the 11th Circuit and the family pushed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was settled after oral arguments were heard for an estimated $700K but set a new precedent for Brunswick which had not backed down from a propeller suit while pursuing the Federal Pre-emption defense.
- 11 June 1994 Phyllis Kopytko was on Table Rock Lake in Missouri enjoying her 19th wedding anniversary along with her husband (Bob Kopytko) and a fishing guide (Paul). They were in an 18 foot 200 HP outboard powered bass boat. All three of were ejected from the boat and it began to circle. She located her husband who told her the boat was coming at her, she dove and managed to escape being struck, but on the second pass she was pulled into the propeller and cut over much of her body. He husband and the guide were both stuck and killed by the propeller. Phyllis Kopytko’s left arm was amputated above the elbow and she has endured over 30 surgeries since the accident. She went on to a major force for propeller safety reform and is a member of SPIN (Stop Propeller Injuries Now).
- 17 June 1995 Stephanie Booker was in a boat on Lake Lewisville in Texas. She and two friends were headed toward Charlie’s Pier 121 Marina when a cigarette styled boat hit the rear of their craft and sped away. She remembers seeing the hull before its propeller struck her and reported she could feel her face being ripped off. Her face was almost cut into three parts. She was life flighted to Methodist Medical Center in Dallas. This accident was covered many more times in the media over the next few years, including coverage of legal actions, efforts to identify the hit and run boat and/or boat operator, a surprise search of about 3,000 boats at the Lake in July 1995, searching for wreckage on the lake bottom, possible involvement of a professional athlete, expiration of time limits to find the hit and run, the case being on a television program called ‘Unsolved Mysteries”, etc..
- July 10, 1995 Jeanne Sprietsma was riding in an 18 foot ski boat powered by a 115HP Mercury Marine outboard on Dale Holow Lake. The lake spans the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Apparently when the boat turned, she fell overboard and was struck by the propeller, suffering fatal injuries. Her husband, Rex Sprietsma filed suit against Mercury Marine (Rex Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine) and Brunswick (who owned Mercury Marine) used Federal Pre-emption as a defense (since the Federal Boating Safety Act (FBSA) did not require propeller guards on all boats, states could not require them on specific boats). The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In late 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the use of Federal Pre-emption in this case and sent the case back down to the Illinois Court system. Overturning Federal Pre-emption as a defense was a very significant event in the still ongoing battle between those promoting the use of propeller guards and those resisting their use.
- 20 July 1995 Shirley K. Brocchini-Jones, age 24 of Klamath Falls Oregon, sufferred major injuries Friday 20 July on Shasta Lake near Redding California. A houseboat backed into her while she was swimming toward it about 6pm. Her legs were cut severely and she was life flighted to Redding Medical Center. Her injuries were terribly severe and she died 8 days later. Her mother, Shirl Koop, went on to become an activist for reducing propeller injuries.
- 24 Sep 1995 Gloria Estefan, the popular singer, was onboard her 33 foot recreational boat with her husband off Miami Beach. Two students from Howard University in Washington DC approached too close on a personal watercraft. Howard Clark, age 29, was sent airborne from the PWC by the wake and “into the boat’s propeller” and was killed.
- 23 May 1999 Audrey Decker , approximately 54, and her husband were on a 13 foot Boston Whaler powered by a 25 HP Johnson outboard behind their Floria home on Lake Saphire. She fell overboard when the boat hit a wake during a turn and was struck by the propeller. She has since had more than 40 operations and bears severe visible scars. The accident resulted in Decker v. OMC.
- 23 July 1999 Dmitri Tertyshny the 22 year old defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers was boating Friday night 23 July at Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, British Columbia. He was kneeling on seats in the front a the boat, it struck a wave, he fell overboard forward, the boat ran over him and its propeller struck him in the neck. He bled and quickly died.
- August 2000 Stephanie “Stef” Reid of Canada was 15 to 16 years old when severely struck in the back and legs by a boat propeller. The accident received little if any press at that time, but became important later on. She lost her lower leg in the accident and became an elite ParaOlympian athlete for Great Britain that continues to inspire others.
- 16 September 2000 reports Felix Shrayber, age 47, was on a PWC (personal water craft) headed toward the back of a houseboat on Lake Shasta near Redding California, fell into the water, and the houseboat propeller idling in reverse struck his leg in four places near Jones Valley Marina. He was life flighted to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. This accident later turned into a court case Shrayber v. Holiday Harbor, Inc.
- October 2000 Michael Davis, age 36, was struck by the propeller of a Skeeter boat at Red River (Louisiana) and has since been a quadriplegic. A trial that ended in early Sept 2003 ruled Yamaha will pay him $6 million in compensatory damages with close to another million coming from a boat dealership, the boat builder, and an insurance company. Prosecutors claimed the boat was overpowered, resulting in auto-generated turns.
- 18 Dec 2000 Kirsty MacColl a 41 year old British songwriter was killed in a propeller accident off the island of Cozumel Mexico. She was diving with her 13 and 15 year old sons. Kirsty had just surfaced after a dive and pushed her 15 year old son to safety before she was struck by the propeller of a boat named, “Percalito” with ties to an important family in Mexico. She died instantly. An investigation still ongoing in 2007. It involves just exactly who was behind the wheel, how fast were they going, and were their other witnesses reluctant to testify against an important family. Her mother in the U.K. and others run a web site justiceforkirsty.org as part of their campaign to resolve the case.
- 18 August 2001 Robin Listman was on Pryamid Lake in Nevada. An inflatable floating dinosaur belonging to her son blew off shore into the water. Another boater took her out on a 19 foot Four Winns powered by an OMC stern drive to retrieve the float toy. She was on the swim platform reaching for the toy, fell in, and was struck by the propeller. Her right leg was later amputated below the knee. This accident resulted in Listman v. OMC. That trial produced some of the most detailed records available of living with a prosthetic after a propeller accident and the associated challenges.
- 20 June 2002 Mikael Renberg a professional hockey player in Canada (Maple Leaf’s Winger), age 30, was boating with family and friends in Sweden near his summer home on the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. While pulling up anchor, he slipped, fell into the water, tried to swim away, but was still struck by the propeller of his eight meter boat. It sliced through a muscle on his upper right arm.
- 15 Aug 2002 Paul Gallagher, age 2, was sleeping in a deck chair next to his mother on a beach in the Bahamas. An unmanned speedboat ran upon the beach, struck his mother leg, threw his one year old brother’s buggy 20 feet into the air, then the propeller struck paul in the head. He died 5 days later. Similar to the Kirsty MacColl situation, the family has had trouble reaching what they deem justice in a foreign country and had are running a “Justice for Paul” campaign.
- 2 May 2003 Coach Ray Zook now (2005 – ??) Head Football Coach at the University of Illinois was involved in a water ski accident. His left foot was severely struck by a propeller. He suffered four broken bones, damaged ligaments, and required over 100 stitches.
- 26 May 2003 Laura Putnam was on Lake LBJ in Texas with her new fiance and his cousin. They were stationary with their navigation lights on, a craft bore down on them about 2:30 am. Her body was found on June 8th with a chopping wound above her left eye. On June 17th investigators found a white boat with maroon stripes and a damaged propeller on a lakeside property owned by two prominent businessmen. They and some other couples had came to the lake to celebrate the San Antonio Spurs victory in the NBA semifinals that weekend. The accident occurred about 2:30 am. Per their account, the businessmen were asleep at that time. They say someone used their boat, but they are not sure who.
- 30 April 2005 Nicholas Johs, a 14 year old boy Staten Island New York Boy Scout was on a Whale Watching Boat with his troop when he fell in and was struck by the propeller. He and several other scouts were said to be jumping up and down near the bow of the boat in time with the waves. A passenger dove in to help but had to turn back in the cold water. Johs’ t-shirt was found on the propeller. His body was recovered May 22nd. DNA testing verified it was his in mid June.
- 25 Jun 2005 this weekend John Flemming, an Internationally famous DJ from the U.K. was tubing near Brighton (U.K.), fell from the tube, and was struck by the propeller of the towboat. He suffered a collapsed lung, four broken ribs and a deep gash to his arm.
- 1 July 2005 Jacob Brochtrup, age 18, jumped from the rear of a boat to retrieve a ski rope just as the boat was reversed on Lake Austin (TX). He was struck in the leg in view of The Pier Restaurant on Lake Austin. His leg was nearly severed. He was life flighted to an area hospital, lost a lot of blood and his life was saved in part by a special machine that cooled his body during the long time his brain was without blood. He later lost his leg and a lawsuit was filed against Sea Ray and Mercury Marine. A significant judgment was won against Brunswick (Mercury Marine and Sea Ray) which may be appealed.
- 10 Aug 2005 Alexandra Ciardi, 48 years old, a well known fund manager at London-based GLG Partners LP was swimming in Italy on Wednesday August 10th, struck by a speedboat propeller and died of fatal head injuries. She was swimming from the family’s yacht to join her husband on a boat in Sardinia. The accident occurred Calle de Volpe, near to the “millionaires’ playground” of Porto Cervo near lunchtime. Two men are under investigation. Three of her children were on the boat she was swimming from, some friends took her to shore, doctors tended to her there, but she died before a helicopter could arrive.
- 18 Aug 2006 Britteny Lindt, a 15 year old cheerleader fo Marcus High School, was riding an inner tube behind a jet ski about 6:30pm near on Lewisville Lake (TX) near the Lewisville Lake Tower Bay Park and Ramp. A boat allegedly swerved to avoid hitting something else and ran over her. She was struck in the neck and chest by the propeller and died about 10 minutes later. Her parents became advocates for boating safety and started a Britteny Sage Lindt Fund to support those efforts.
- 7 Oct 2006 James Noel-Pou and Monica Burguera and seven friends (9 people total) were on a 22 foot rented Sea Ray rented south of the Rickenbacker Causeway on Biscayne Bay near Miami Florida. The boat was being operated by a teenage “captain” supplied by the rental facility (making 10 people on the craft). At some point the craft became disabled. The group also had a 22 foot Sea Ray also rented by the group of friends with 9 people on board. The teenage “captain” then takes the 22 foot Sea Ray and begins to tow the
21 foot Sea Ray back for assistance, along with a 15 foot Bayliner (also being towed) that had no relation to the group. The string of three boats now had ten people in the first boat (21 foot Sea Ray), nine people on the middle boat (22 foot Sea Ray) and two people in the last boat (15 foot Bayliner) and was traveling in a straight line toward the Rickenbacker Causeway. As they neared the Causeway, a 35 foot Intrepid cabin cruiser crashed into the middle boat (22 foot Sea Ray) with James Noel-Pou and Monica Burguera on board. Noel-Pou and Burguera were both killed by propeller injuries to the head.
- 24 Oct 2006 Peter Foster, age 44, a notorious conman from Australia previously jailed in three countries was trying to elude police in Fiji. He ran from a vehicle and jumped into the river when spotted by police. The police took control a local boat and gave chase. He went under the boat and received a gash on his forehead apparently from the propeller. He was being sought for questioning in Fiji about a sabotage campaign against the New Zealand developer of a resort. Peter Foster is well known for his slimming products, dated Samantha Fox (a British model Samantha Fox) and was a confidant of Cherie Blair, wife of the British prime minister Tony Blair.
- 25 March 2007 Ronald Gill, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class of Anchorage Alaska, was involved in security patrols and training in Puget Sound (Washington) near Vashon Island when he fell from a 25 foot fast response boat powered by two 225 HP Honda outboards about 2:15 pm. He hit his head on the boat’s propeller, was pulled from the water within a minute, taken to Fauntleroy ferry terminal, then rushed to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center where he was declared dead. Sunday 25 March was to be the last day of his training mission.
- 17 Apr 2007 Brooke Fletcher a 17 year old Australian swimmer from Queensland hoping to compete in the upcoming Olympics was struck by the propeller of a “water safety craft” while swimming in open water south of Perth. She was leading a group of five swimmers in a meet and rounding a marker buoy in Matilda Bay when she was struck in the back by a propeller and taken to a local hospital.
- 17 July 2007 Patrick Murphy, age 17, was being towed on a kneeboard in Rhode Island on the Barrington River at Hundred Acre Cove. The 21 foot boat was being driven by another 17 year old. The owner of the boat said he does not know how the boys obtained it. After Murphy was missing, law enforcement believed he was still alive, however his body was found the next day. “He was killed by blunt force trauma and being slashed by something sharp, probably a propeller.” A spokesman for the State Attorney General said, “Law enforcement officials are going on the assumption that the boat’s propellers caused the cuts.” The teenager driving the boat was charged with reckless boating, death resulting, underage possession of alcohol and other charges.
- 30 November 2007 Rebecca Stockwell, nee Crawley age 27 of New Zealand was on her honeymoon on the Island of Matamonoa in Fiji. She and here husband were snorkeling they day after their arrival when she was ran over by a passing boat and fatally struck in the head by its propeller. The six meter boat with a 20 HP outboard was being operated by a hotel worker. She was life flighted to Lautoka Hospital and declared dead on arrival. This beautiful young woman, full of life and happiness, was instantly taken from her family. The family went of for several years fighting the challenges of trying to achieve some sort of justice/closure in a remote land that tends to try to sweep events like this one under the rug.
- 21 April 2008 Adrian Todd, 14, was pull starting an 8 HP Mercury outboard in Refuge Bay, New South Wales, Australia when it started in gear and he was pitched overboard. He was struck in the face by the propeller of the RIB. The accident went on to become Todd v. Marine Power International (Mercury Marine) and his father, Julian Todd, went on to become a leading advocate
for propeller safety in Australia.
- 6 July 2008 Cole Ortega, age 14, was surfing at Pacific City Oregon when the waves began to come up. He tried to come to shore along with several other surfers and was struck by the propeller of a Dory coming in at the same time. This accident received a lot of discussion concerning the sharing of the beach by Dories and surfers, and the determination of this young man to recover quickly.
- 29 May 2009 Isabella Hall, age 49, were pontoon boating on Herrington Lake in Kentucky. She was struck and killed by its propeller. The press surrounding the accident, and a later trial, were full of speculation her husband may have ran her down on purpose.
- 14 July 2009 Allyssa Squirrell, age 11, was training as a Jr. Lifeguard with 20 to 25 other junior life guards of similar ages off Huntington Beach California. A speed boat dropped them off in speed drops, then came back to get them. A 30 year veteran safety officer was operating the boat when she was struck by its propeller. She died later the same day from severe cuts to her back and left leg.
- 31 July 2009 Molly Moses, age 16, fell from a boat operated by her father when it hit a submerged object in Alabama, her leg was nearly severed by the propeller. Her recovery widely at “Miracles for Molly” on Facebook and her family campaigned for Molly’s Law to put guards on all boats in Alabama. The accident was widely covered in the press.
- 16 August 2009 Paige Welch, age 13, this young girl was Kayaking with her mother and 23 year old family member in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago. They were struck by a 28 foot 200 horsepower pirogue (fishing boat). The world watched on as doctors battled to save this young girl’s arm. The propeller also struck her mother. Her family, visiting from the U.S., was frustrated at the lack of information available to them about the accident, while others noted its similarity to a 12 June 2007 propeller accident involving Y. Quesnel and C. Barry-Laso. The boat that struck Paige was later found to be operated by a Army officer.
- 22 August 2009 Caitlin Beadles, 15 years old from Georgia, known for being an ex-girlfriend of Justin Bieber, was jetskiing on an Alabama lake. She fell from the PWC, a boat with her group pulling a canoe came by, did not see her, and her legs were severely struck by the propeller. The boat operator came back, got her to shore on a PWC. Her legs were wrapped her legs with towels and pressure was applied to try to slow the bleeding. An ambulance took her to meet a life flight helicopter and she was life flighted to University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital. She was still having very significant health issues related to these injuries a few years later.
- 22 December 2010 Brad Ottens, ruckman for the Geelong Cats (Australian rugby) cut tendons on his right hand and also struck on elbow and leg. Was on holiday with his fiance. Ottens is a very popular figure in Australian professional sports.
- 14 February 2010 Oliver Minchin, 19 year old Army Cadet, was struck by a propeller in the lower back, thigh, and left buttock on a training exercise at Canaberra Australia by the propeller of the RIB from which he was ejected. He is the son of a very prominent Australian politician, Liberal Senate Leader, Nick MInchin. Many followed the accident in the press, and later when Senator Minchin announced his retirement to be with his son during his long recovery.
- 31 May 2010 2 Cyril J. Holley, Jr., his 19 year old nine months pregnant daughter (Madison Holley), his wife, Madison’s husband, and two others (total of 6 people) were in a boat on the Intercoastal Waterway just south of Ponce de Leon Inlet. Their boat was ran over by a larger boat. Mr. Holley and his daughter were struck by the propeller and thrown into the water. They both died, along with Madison’s unborn child. The local wildlife commission is recording it as 3 fatalities due to her being 9 months pregnant. USCG did not log it as a propeller accident because the prop strikes occurred in the air.
- 31 May 2010 David McFarlin, 10, fell from a 175 HP Mercury outboard powered boat on Storm Lake, Storm Lake Iowa when it hit a dredge pipe during a family outing on Memorial Day weekend. The outboard flipped up into the boat and he was fatally struck by the still rotating propeller. The accident went on to become Laass v. City of Storm Lake, et al.
- 10 October 2010 Luke Evslin, a well known canoer that worked for a racing canoe manufacturer in Hawaii was part of a crew exchange to a six man canoe in in the Molokai Hoe Race in Hawaii. When the escort boat hit a wave, he was ejected, and struck by its propeller. Luke was a very popular figure in Hawaii rowing. He had a nicked spine, broken pelvis, bruised kidney and thought he was dying. Many continue to follow his recovery in the press and blogs.
By 2011 we had pretty good coverage of these accidents on our annual accident pages, and some high profile accidents began to have pages of their own. So we began just adding the high profile accidents to the list below.
Below is a quick list of the accident above by date. We hope to turn it into a Timeline Chart when we get some time.
- 31 May 1903 Lewis Maithew walked off the stern when underway, struck and killed by prop. The earliest recreational boat propeller accident we have on file.
- 18 June 1931 Six people cut by a propeller
- Approx 14 July 1935 Ruffer Jill and Ron Taylor in early Circle of Death accident
- 28 Jun 1949 Imogene Wittche – age 13, feet severed
- 16 August 1953 Boni Buehler – stewardess on Lake Arrowhead (Calif)
- 1975 Todd Huston – motivational speaker
- 15 April 1985 Elizabeth Woodman – dad carried air to her
- Sept 1985 Jim Nelford – professional golfer
- 4 Sept 1989 Laura Hepler – pregnant mother
- 10 August 1990 Kevin Fitzpatrick – suit v. OMC
- 7 May 1992 Stacy Epping – Oregon State students on Shasta
- 21 March 1993 Emilio Irving Cruz – Univ of San Diego students on Lake Havasu
- 6 Jun 1993 On June 6, 1993, Kathryn Lewis – U.S. Supreme Court case settled
- 11 June 1994 Phyllis Kopytko – two died, one severely injured
- 17 June 1995 Stephanie Booker – hit and run on Lake Lewisville in TX
- July 10, 1995 Jeanne Sprietsma – U.S. Supreme Court case
- 20 July 1995 Shirley K. Brocchini-Jones – Shasta Lake houseboat
- 24 Sep 1995 Howard Clark – hit and killed by propeller of Gloria Estefan’s boat
- 23 May 1999 Audrey Decker – fell from small boat on a lake behind her home, became Decker v. OMC
- 23 July 1999 Dmitri Tertyshny – professional hockey player
- August 2000 Stephanie “Stef” Reid of Canada – ParaOlympic athlete and motivational celebrity
- 16 September 2000 reports Felix Shrayber – Shasta Lake houseboat
- October 2000 Michael Davis – Yamaha / Skeeter case
- 18 August 2001 Robin Listman – fell from swim platform while reaching for her son’s inflatable toy, became Listman v. OMC
- 18 Dec 2000 Kirsty MacColl – British songwriter
- 20 June 2002 Mikael Renberg – professional hockey player
- 15 Aug 2002 Paul Gallagher – two year old boy on the beach
- 2 May 2003 Coach Ray Zook – college football coach
- 26 May 2003 Laura Putnam – hit and run on Lake LBJ in TX
- 30 April 2005 Nicholas Johs – boy scout on Whale Watching Boat
- Weekend of 25 Jun 2005 John Flemming – DJ
- 1 July 2005 Jacob Brochtrup – age 18 on Lake Austin
- 10 Aug 2005 Alexandra Ciardi – U.K. fund manager
- 18 Aug 2006 Britteny Lindt – 15 year old cheerleader
- 7 Oct 2006 James Noel-Pou and Monica Burguera – two killed in run over of rental boat
- 24 Oct 2006 Peter Foster – on run from police
- 25 March 2007 Ronald Gill – U.S. Coast Guard on last day of training
- 17 Apr 2007 Brooke Fletcher – Australian Olympic swimming hopeful
- 17 July 2007 Patrick Murphy – Rhode Island boat taken without permission
- 30 November 2007 Rebecca Stockwell / Crawley snorkeling on her honeymoon in Fiji. Her father became an advocate for propeller safety.
- 21 April 2008 Adrian Todd, 14, NSW Australia boy fell pull starting small Mercury outboard. His father went on to become a leading advocate for propeller safety.
- 6 July 2008 Cole Ortega – 14 year old boy surfing hit by Dory in Oregon
- 29 May 2009 Isabella Hall – lady killed by pontoon prop, possibly intentional by her husband
- 14 July 2009 Allyssa Squirrel – 11 year old girl killed training as Jr. Lifeguard
- 31 July 2009 Molly Moses – 16, ejected when boat hit a submerged object. Her recovery was followed on “Miracles for Molly” on Facebook and her family campaigned for Molly’s Law to put guards on boats.
- 16 August 2009 Paige Welch, 13, and her mother Raquel both of the U.S. were struck in Trinidad and Tobago
- 22 August 2009 Caitlin Beadles, 15, Justin Bieber’s ex-girlfriend
- 22 December 2009 Brad Ottens – Australian rugby player
- 14 February 2010 Oliver Minchin – Army Cadet struck in Australia, son of major political figure
- 31 May 2010 David McFarlin, 10, outboard motor hit a dredge pipe and flipped in during family outing, fatally striking him on Storm Lake Iowa
- 10 October 2010 Luke Evslin – canoe race in Hawaii, widely known young man
- 4 February 2011 Gabby DeSouza – 14 year old girl in Florida that captivated the press
- 25 June 2011 Deondra Scott – swimming behind a rented boat operated by a novice operator at Lake Norman Lake Bash in North Carolina
- 30 June 2011 Alexis Angelopolous – 12 year old girl trapped between dual propellers off Virginia Beach
- 21 August 2011 Esther Fujimoto – University researcher swimming Pineview Reservoir in Utah fatally struck by hit and run
- 27 August 2011 Dr. Stephen Keller – San Jose Calif. dentist loved by all fell from rental boat and fatally struck on Lake Tahoe
- November 2011 Maurice Abrahams – of the UK, severely struck while scuba diving in Egypt, he went on to be an advocate for propeller safety
- 20 July 2012 Kali Gorzell – 16 year old girl loved by all fell overboard and fatally struck at Aransas Pass TX
- 20 July 2012 Charlie Hutton – 14 year old UK boy, fell from RIB near Isle of Wright and fatally struck. Nationally known soccer player at Whitgift. Heavily covered in the press.
- 11 August 2012 Cian Williams – 13 year old UK boy, backed into by a prop, he and his mother became propeller safety advocates. Heavily covered in the press.
- 16 September 2012 Mark Barhanovich – well known of Biloxi MS, thought to have struck dredge pipe near Deer Island, outboard flipped in and fatally struck him.
- 1 December 2012 Casey Schulman – Univ.of Virginia student in Semester at Sea program fatally backed into by excursion sailing catamaran prop in Dominica.
- 3 December 2012 Terrell Horne III – USCG officer on an interdiction run, boat suspected of criminal activity ran over RIB he was in off Santa Cruz Island, California.
- 21 April 2013 Sarah Roderick – 8 year old Arizona girl over the bow of a pontoon boat on Lake Havasu and was fatally struck by the propeller.
- 5 May 2013 Nicholas Milligan family – on holiday in the UK, rib ejected all 6 family members. Nicholas (father) and Emily (8 year old daughter) fatally struck by propeller, Victoria (mother) lost a leg, Kit (4 year old son) had his legs severely injured. Two other daughters pretty shaken up.
- 8 June 2013 Chase Edwards – 12 year old Texas boy on a boat with his mother at night, fell overboard when their boat was struck by another boat, and was severely struck by the propeller. Doctors said his legs have been infected by lake water and estimated he would be in the hospital at least six months.
- 17 August 2013 Wyatt Althoff – a young professional rodeo cowboy fell from a boat on Roosevelt Lake in Arizona and was fatally injured by the propeller. His body was found a day later. Many friends, professional cowboys, and collegiate rodeo teams mourned his death.
- 26 June 2013 David Cass – 30, moved toward the boat of a pontoon boat in northern Minnesota, fell overboard, was struck by the propeller, and died two days later from his injuries.
- 22 August 2013 Samantha Maywell, 24, Mermaid Samantha, a popular mermaid at a Florida park, fell from a pontoon boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Her leg was struck by the propeller. The press and hundreds of children have been following her recovery, hoping she will one day be able to return to her mermaid position at the park.
- 23 August 2013 Aaron Tepfer, 10 year old Jewish boy in New York, was climbing back into a boat after being towed. His legs became entrapped in the propeller. He died from his injuries early the next morning.
- 4 May 2014 Ernesto Hernandez, 23, was assisting others push D.J. Laz’s Voli boat off a sandbar during a promotional event in South Florida when he was pulled into the four 350 horsepower outboard motors and killed by the propellers.
- 1 July 2014 Drew Barefield, 12 of Florida, was struck by a propeller while snorkeling with his father. Drew was critically injured and spent a long time in the hospital. The community strongly rallied around him and his family.
- 8 August 2014 Emily Fedorko, 16, struck and killed by the propeller of the boat that was towing the tube she was riding. Her family went on to form a foundation for boating safety now called emsway.
- 17 October 2014 an unidentified male snorkeling off Florida was struck by a boat propeller. The press attention was due to the boat that struck him, the Midnight Express, a gold colored boat powered by 5 300 horsepower outboard motors.
- 13 February 2015 Victor Sanchez, a pitching prospect for the Seattle Mariners, was killed by a boat propeller in Venezuela.
- 10 July 2015 Andrea Jacura was killed by a houseboat propeller on Shuswap Lake in Canada. Her death rekindled a strong discussion on the issue of houseboat propeller guards there.
- 9 January 2016 Shri Shim, of Hawaii, was killed by a propeller while free diving with his stepson. He was widely known and well liked in the community.
- 17 August 2016 Kaden Frederick, 9, was fell from the bow of a pontoon boat near Ocean City, Maryland and was killed by its propeller.
- 14 January 2017 a non propeller strike accident received a lot of press. Hunter Bland and Conner Young, of the University of Florida Bass Fishing team, were ejected from a bass boat at speed and the event was captured on video. They were wearing life jackets and the operator was wearing the kill switch lanyard. Hunter was later featured in a National Safe Boating Council Public Service Announcement (PSA).
- 6 March 2017 Matthew Meinert was killed by a boat propeller in Denton Creek Texas, his two year old boy survived a cold night in the brush and was found the next day.
- 1 June 2017 Deputy Devin Hodges was killed by a boat propeller during training exercises on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina when all three people were ejected from the boat and it went into the Circle of Death.
- 24 June 2017 Katyln Oliver, 4, was killed by houseboat propeller in Texas, her father, Patrick Oliver tried to rescue her, both his legs were amputated, he died about two weeks later from his injuries.
- 3 July 2017 Auston Strole was killed by a propeller on Lake Shasta in California. The young boy spent a lot of time at the baseball park. Family and friends celebrated the recover of his body and welcomed him back home there after his body was missing for 88 days.
- 18 July 2017 a Ryan John Weiss, 12, was taking sailing lessons on Long Island New York fell from an escort boat and was killed by the propeller.
- 15 September 2017 Courtney Godfrey of Fox9 in Minneapolis MN lost her left leg to a propeller. She went on to be an advocate for changes in boat insurance policies (many do not cover spouses).
- 1 April 2018 Miami Vice, a 91 foot yacht normally used for charter near Miami Beach, was involved in the fatal propeller strike of Raul Menendez. The young man operating the yacht was later found to have had some drug issues and lacked the proper licenses. The accident received a lot of press in part due to concerns about similar problems with other charter yachts.
- 19 June Henry Owens lost both legs to a boat propeller while transferring from a parasailing boat to a bananna boat near Myrtle Beach.
- 19 July 2018 While not reported as a propeller accident, the Duck Boat accident at Branson Missouri that claimed 17 lives was by far the highest profile boat accident in 2018.
- 28 November 2019 Carter Viss, 25 year-old marine biologist working with turtles and other marine life was struck by a boat propeller while diving with friends off Palm Beach, Florida.
The year of the virus
- 21 November 2020 Ethan Issacs, 10, was fatally injured by a boat propeller at a Florida sailing club. We anticipate this accident will focus attention on the call for requiring propeller guards on boats used with youth instruction as did the Ryan Weiss fatality in New York a few years ago.