Probe: Players didn't see dock Ojeda says their boat was turning before crash

March 25, 1993|By Murray Chass | Murray Chass,New York Times News Service

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- As the Cleveland Indians resume their baseball lives yesterday after the death of two of their pitchers, investigators learned that their teammates apparently never saw the dock their boat rammed.

Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed Monday night when the 18-foot fishing boat Crews was piloting struck and went under a dock on Little Lake Nellie, about 30 miles north of the Indians' spring training camp. Investigators have been trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as why the boat hit the dock, how fast the boat was traveling and whether alcohol was involved.

Lt. Vinard Hitt of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission said an interview with Bob Ojeda, the lone survivor of the crash, and an autopsy report on Crews indicated the three players didn't know what hit them or what they hit.

"One of our officers interviewed Ojeda last night," Hitt said. "Mr. Ojeda could not recall seeing the dock or hitting it."

Hitt said Ojeda confirmed that the players and their families had had a barbecue, and the players decided to go fishing and "made a pass or two around the lake." It was as Crews was turning around to head for the other side of the lake to pick up two more men that the boat struck the pier.

Ojeda, who suffered a severe scalp laceration, is in South Lake Memorial Hospital in Clermont, where his condition was upgraded to good. A hospital spokesman said the pitcher is expected to be released within several days.

There still were no answers about possible alcohol consumption by Crews, the driver, or the others. A local television report said one of the players it did not identify was found to have a .17 blood alcohol content (.10 is the legal limit in Florida), but Hitt said none of the commission's investigators knew anything about that report.

"Our samples are being tested by the Florida Law Enforcement Department," Hitt said. "They haven't even started it."

Carol Gross, a spokesman for the Orange County Medical Examiner, said that office had not done a blood alcohol test on Crews. "It will be submitted to the laboratory tomorrow," she said.

Joe Brown, a spokesman for Orlando Regional Medical Center, where Crews died about 10 hours after the accident, said the hospital, as a matter of confidentiality, would not disclose

whether it had ordered a blood alcohol test.

The game and fish commission and Hitt said the boat was going near full-throttle speed, about 65 mph. There are no statewide speed limits, but fish commission officials said anything over 20-25 mph at night is dangerous.

Lt. Bruce Cooper, regional fatality investigator for the game and fish commission, said investigators could determine the approximate speed from paint scrapings and damage to the dock and boat. The vessel split apart three 4-by-4 pilings and went under the dock to the other side.

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