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Boat driver counting his blessings after Penticton pier crash

Officials check the scene of an accident involving a cabin cruiser Wednesday morning at the Kiwanis Walking Pier. According to Penticton RCMP the accident happened about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when the boat hit the dock, crashed through the railing coming to rest on the other side. Several young people were sitting on pier close to where the boat hit but were not injured. Neither of the two people on the boat were seriously hurt. Police say alcohol may have been a factor and an investigation is continuing. The dock is currently closed to the public pending a structural analysis and removal of the vessel. A crane and barge will like be used to lift the boat from its resting place. Environmental experts have also been called  to determine if there was any harm done from leaking fuel. A containment boom was put in place as a precaution.  - Mark Brett/Western News
Officials check the scene of an accident involving a cabin cruiser Wednesday morning at the Kiwanis Walking Pier. According to Penticton RCMP the accident happened about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when the boat hit the dock, crashed through the railing coming to rest on the other side. Several young people were sitting on pier close to where the boat hit but were not injured. Neither of the two people on the boat were seriously hurt. Police say alcohol may have been a factor and an investigation is continuing. The dock is currently closed to the public pending a structural analysis and removal of the vessel. A crane and barge will like be used to lift the boat from its resting place. Environmental experts have also been called to determine if there was any harm done from leaking fuel. A containment boom was put in place as a precaution.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Rene Bourque was still counting his blessings Wednesday, after the previous night’s accident which left his 28-foot boat balanced precariously on the Kiwanis Walking Pier.

At the same time, he urged the City of Penticton to improve the after-dark visibility of the structure to reduce the chances of someone else hitting it.

Incredibly, neither Bourque, his female passenger, or the young people on the pier at the time of the incident were seriously injured.

The woman on the boat did receive a small cut to the side of her face.

“I came in and I throttled down and I was turning and I saw the dock but I thought I was further out and then I looked up and I said, ‘oh no,’ I just didn’t have time,” recalled Bourque. “I was only going 20 kilometres (an hour) and me and the girl were standing at the windshield and neither one of us saw it. I just thank God the water level was so high.”

The boat collided with the pier about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday as the couple were returning from a trip to Kelowna.

The only illumination currently on the pier is a red navigation light located at the very end, which blinks approximately every six seconds.

A Transport Canada official indicated this week the pier will be reviewed to “ensure the safety of navigation.”

But that is not good enough for Bourque.

“They need more lights on the dock and if they (city) don’t put them in I’m going to buy them myself, I’ll pay for them,” he said, adding even if the pier was white, it would be easier to see.

When police attended the scene initially, they noticed a smell of alcohol on Bourque and he gave a breath sample there and another one at the detachment.

According to Cpl. Dan Moskaluk the man’s blood-alcohol level was at the “cusp” of being just over or under the legal limit, but he was not charged.

The boat operator said he had some alcohol earlier in the evening but was not impaired. According to police he is being investigated for unsafe or dangerous operation of a vessel.

This was not the first time a vessel has hit the pier at night.

In a similar incident about 16 years ago, Stan Kurtz was killed instantly when his boat collided with the pier. His friend and co-worker John Rae, who actually helped prep Bourque’s Bayliner prior to its removal from the pier Wednesday, was also at that accident scene.

His description of what he saw on his arrival is too graphic to recount, however it is something forever etched in his mind.

“His boat went underneath the dock and the bottom of the dock hit the top of the boat and then his head,” said Rae, who operates Raezor’s Edge Marine Services. “There were no lights on it (pier) and he never saw it.

“They could put other lights on the bottom of the dock, or you could put reflectors at water level, anything would be better than what it is now.”

He added the onshore lights blend in with the navigation beacon which also makes it difficult to see.

“If your travelling at any speed and you might have missed the first blink and by the second one you’re already on top of it (pier) and it’s too late because the rest of the dock’s not lit,” said Rae.

Greg Garward, who operates boats for nearby Pier Water Sports, agreed: “You can hit that thing very easily. I know it’s there but it is still hard to see, especially with the glare off the water and the reflection of the lights.”

Chuck Loewen, the city’s general manager of facilities and recreation services, said when it comes to lighting, the municipality is bound by government navigation requirements.

“We’re going to check into this to make sure we have all ducks in a row and if there is anything we can add into we will, but we will not do anything that contravenes their jurisdiction,” he said. “We will do whatever is required, whatever is necessary as much as we can.”

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