Woman killed in Jet Ski collision

June 19, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,Sun Staff Writer

Richard and Janet Lynn Ewing zipped through the cool waters of the Susquehanna River on their Jet Skis, shredding the water's wake, smiling and waving as they crossed each other's paths -- just as they had on sunny weekends for two years.

But Saturday, their two watercrafts crossed too closely, too quickly, and Mr. Ewing's Jet Ski rammed his wife's nearly head-on, killing her.

The Ewings of Cecil County had been riding the jet-powered crafts with their 12-year-old son, Jason, and a family friend about 300 yards from Logans Wharf in Cecil County when the crash happened about 6:45 p.m., authorities said.

Ronald Roy King, who had been riding with the Ewings, recalled the accident yesterday.

"When I heard it, I turned around and looked over my shoulder. She was up in the air in a spiral motion," Mr. King said.

"When she hit the water, I thought she broke a leg because she was motionless. When she didn't scream, that's when we knew it was definitely serious."

Mr. King said he and Mr. Ewing swam to Mrs. Ewing, who was floating with the help of her life jacket. Jason Ewing sped to shore to call 911.

Within moments of the accident, which state officials said was apparently Maryland's first involving the watercraft, two boaters helped the two men hoist Mrs. Ewing out of the river. She was then administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation while being transported to the shore.

Mrs. Ewing, 35, was pronounced dead at Harford Memorial Hospital at 7:45 p.m.

The accident prompted warnings from state officials about the dangers of riding the popular machines, known by their brand names Jet Ski and Waverunner.

"They are small, easy to maneuver and accelerate quickly," said Bob Graham, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

"But that's part of the problem, because people forget how to operate these things."

Mr. Graham said the department has logged an increasing number of accidents and complaints from other boaters about the motorized craft. The biggest cause of accidents is riders jumping the waves left by other watercraft, he said.

Mrs. Ewing, a homemaker and mother of two from Rising Sun in Cecil County, was no novice on the jet-powered water sled.

Two summers ago, she and her 38-year-old husband, a trucker, became avid fans of the zippy machines that operate like a dirt bike on water. Each owned one.

For the past five or six weeks, they went to the Susquehanna River near Port Deposit to ride.

Mrs. Ewing relished water sports and camping, recalled her mother-in-law, Ann Ewing, who lives four miles from the family.

But she spent much of her free time working with her children's Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities. Her daughter, Stacey, 8, was not in the water when the accident occurred.

Mrs. Ewing "was the candy and the cookie chairman. And she had just set up a camping trip to Gettysburg for Boy Scouts," her mother-in-law said.

Mr. Ewing was too grief-stricken to speak to a reporter yesterday. But Mr. King said his friend and water-sport companion wanted others to realize they should never get cocky on the water.

"He wants this caution to go out to skiers: Just because you feel experienced, be cautious every minute," Mr. King said. "In one minute you can make a bad decision. And it could cost you your life."

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