Boating Collision on Lake Lanier, GA

Background

Two recreational boats collided on Lake Lanier in Georgia. Boat 1 had seven occupants and  three additional people on two tubes behind the boat. Boat 2 had five occupants and one  additional person waterskiing behind the boat. The collision resulted in multiple injuries and  one fatality.  


Process

Our team was hired to reconstruct the collision incident. Of particular interest was the  determination of the location of the collision on the waterway, what boating rules applied, and  whether the boats had an opportunity to avoid the collision. To perform these tasks, we first  inspected and 3D laser scanned both damaged boats, and performed a static alignment of the  two boats at impact. We then performed on-water testing of undamaged exemplar boats to  characterize their dynamics while performing a variety of maneuvers, including collision  avoidance maneuvers. A site inspection was then performed when the water level was at the  same height as the day of the accident to properly assess site lines. Finally, we extracted the  metadata from digital photographs taken of the water-skier behind Boat 2 to assist in  confirming the boat’s path and speed. 


Results

Our comprehensive analysis allowed us to determine that the collision occurred at a location  where the two boats had more than 6 seconds of visibility, and that they were in a crossing  situation. The confirmation of a crossing situation meant that Boat 2 was the “stand-on” vessel,  and had the duty to maintain course and speed, while Boat 1 was the “give-way” vessel, and  had the duty to slow their vessel and/or change course to let Boat 2 pass safely in front of  them. The static alignment of the two boats showed that the operator of Boat 2 had attempted  to avoid the collision, while the operator of Boat 1 made no evasive effort. Further, the analysis  showed that the operator of Boat 1 had enough time to avoid the collision had the operator  been keeping a proper lookout. 


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