Boating crash site frequented by many who feel need to speed 'It's an accident waiting to happen'

July 08, 1996|By Ed Lee and Dan Thanh Dang | Ed Lee and Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

On any given summer weekend on Middle River, speed boats and personal watercraft whip and weave among slower boats, causing choppy waves and hazardous conditions in the narrow waterway between Bowley and Turkey points in eastern Baltimore County.

"This place is a madhouse," said Nelson Durant, general manager of Bowleys Marina in the Bowleys Quarters peninsula. "It's an accident waiting to happen."

That accident occurred about 5: 45 p.m. Saturday when a Chase couple was severely injured when their 24-foot Chaperelle power boat, traveling at a reported 50 mph, crossed the wake of another boat and flew up into the air near the marina.

The boat's occupants, David and Carla Emala of the 6800 block of University Drive, were returning from a day trip at nearby Hart-Miller Islands Natural Resource Area, said Shawn Whitenack, the Emalas' 22-year-old nephew. Carla Emala was thrown from the boat and run over when the boat landed, Maryland Natural Resources Police said.

David Emala was pinned between the steering wheel and dashboard of the boat, police said.

The couple was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where hospital officials said Carla Emala remained in critical condition yesterday; her husband was in serious condition.

Whitenack said the 33-year-old woman suffered a fractured skull and severe facial lacerations and that her 37-year-old husband suffered a crushed chest, a crushed hip, a broken right leg and broken fingers on his left hand. The Emalas have two boys, ages 4 and 8, being cared for by relatives.

Neither of the Emalas was wearing a life jacket and the vessel had no seat belts, said Bob Graham, a police spokesman.

Whitenack and boaters said the accident might have been prevented.

"I wish there were some speed limits," said Whitenack. "If there was a [posted] speed limit, maybe this never would have happened."

Two years ago, when a community meeting was held to try to establish a safe speed limit for Middle River, Durant said, the idea was opposed by boaters who said it would take too long to travel to the Chesapeake Bay.

"You have a narrow channel without a speed limit and there's nothing to slow them down," said Don Pritchett, 55, a White Marsh resident who is a member of Bowleys Marina.

Durant said experience doesn't matter when boaters and personal watercraft fly through Middle River every weekend, especially in the morning as people leave for the day and in the evening when people return.

"Everybody wants to go too fast," said Durant, working on his 34-foot sailboat yesterday as wakes from passing speed boats rocked boats that were docked at the marina. "But you can't say they're speeding because there's no posted speed limit and unfortunately, you can't build interstates out there with lanes to control the traffic."

Police said they could not speculate on what might have caused Saturday's accident.

Graham said he isn't sure a speed limit would help. "Speed limits are just things we recommend to people to follow. It's up to them to follow it. Ultimately it comes down to people using good judgment and common sense," he said.

He cautioned boaters to remember some guidelines such as:

Always wear a life jacket. "That's the No. 1 thing to ensure a safe boat ride," Graham said.

Be aware of your limitations. "If this is your first season as a boater don't go hell-bent and speed," he said. "Take some time to know what you can or can't do."

Graham also recommended that every boater sign up for boating safety classes.

"The key to boating is operating in a way that's safe for you and the people around you," he said. "It's not like being in a car. Boating is more loosely regulated. We hope people will use discretion on the water."

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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