|FYI — August 2004|
|By Brad Dunn|
In May a 45-foot, double-deck powerboat flipped over and threw about 60 passengers into the waters of Lake Travis near Austin, Texas. Two women were taken to a hospital for minor injuries; no one was seriously hurt.
“We were extremely fortunate,” says Krista Umscheid, spokeswoman for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Witnesses said the party barge flipped over while moored off Hippie Beach—the Lone Star State’s only public nude beach—after passengers mobbed one side of the deck to see the naked sunbathers. But the investigating officer assigned to the accident doesn’t believe it.
“I just don’t think these people got so excited over a little bit of nudity to cause the whole thing to capsize,” says Travis County deputy sheriff Brett Spicer, who adds that his investigation is still ongoing. “We’ve received many conflicting stories about why the boat actually capsized.”
The party barge was rented by the Austin Tavern Guild, a gay and lesbian organization, as part of its biannual “Splash Day” celebration. Police say that when the boat began to list, the captain ran above decks in an attempt to get people to move to the other side. But his efforts to redistribute the weight came too late. Instead, the captain ended up helping LCRA rangers and the Travis County Sheriff’s Department get the drenched passengers ashore.
Spicer says Lake Travis is the most dangerous lake in Texas in terms of boating-related accidents and fatalities. “It’s a very popular, crowded spot. We get more than 1,000,000 visitors a year,” he explains. “There are a lot of accidents in the summer, but this is the first time a whole party barge capsized.”
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This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.