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Six injured in pontoon rollover


June 09, 2010
A pontoon boat being pulled by a truck overturned near Patoka Lake on Sunday, May 30, injuring several people.

Conservation Officer Cora Showalter said four adults and two juveniles were riding in the pontoon as it was being towed from the campground to a nearby boat ramp at Patoka Lake. Showalter said the incident happened in a sharp curve within the park, and it is believed that the driver of the truck went into the curve too fast and one wheel of the pontoon trailer dropped off the edge of the roadway.

"The curve is a little deceiving," she said. "And I think the driver was going a little too fast. When one trailer wheel went off the road, the driver over-corrected. The rear of the pontoon wasn't tied down and that allowed it to raise up and roll off the trailer. The pontoon actually turned completely over."

A 2-year-old child was tangled in the boat's throttle cable and hung by one arm until she was rescued. The other five occupants were thrown from the boat as it turned over. It was later determined that one juvenile suffered a broken wrist and the other juvenile was diagnosed with a bruised heart.

Sherre Zink, from Bloomington, one of the adults, suffered a broken left arm and a broken finger. Donna Henderson, also from Bloomington, had a broken foot. Jason Huffman, of Bedford, had scrapes and abrasions and a broken toe. Emily Hannum, also from Bedford, received several abrasions.

The 2-year-old was flown by helicopter to a hospital and the other five were transported to the hospital by a Crawford County EMS ambulance.

The driver of the truck, Doug Hamilton, of Cold City, was not injured.

The pontoon was badly damaged and towed from the scene by Sturgeon Wrecker Service.

Showalter and Conservation Officer Dennis Talley were nearby when the incident occurred.

"We were patrolling the lake, and my boat wasn't running very well," Talley said. "We went back to the boat ramp to get Cora's (Showalter) boat, and, as we were about to launch it, we were notified about the accident. So, we were only about a half-mile away and got to the scene within minutes."

So far, no charges have been filed against the driver.

"Although no one was wearing a seat belt or child restraint, the pontoon was not equipped with seat belts, so it's a gray area," Showalter said. "It's hard to enforce the seat-belt law when there are no seat belts provided."

"It's something that we see all the time," Talley added. "While we were on the scene of the accident, there were several vehicles that came by, towing boats, with people riding in them. Although it may not be breaking any laws, it is certainly dangerous and ill advised."

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