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.
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.
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.