October 30, 2014

Family looks for changes after Lake Iroquois boating accident

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Water Ski Vermont Summer

A waterskier recreates on Lake Iroquois. The lake is popular with swimmers, boaters and paddlers. (Observer file photo)

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
The family of a swimmer struck by a power boat on Lake Iroquois on Saturday hopes the incident will serve to ensure greater safety at the lake.
Jane Marinsky, 62, of Hinesburg, has been released from the intensive care unit at Fletcher Allen Health Care after the boating accident.
Her husband, Dan Sharpe, said he hopes to raise awareness of safety at the lake.
“We don’t want this to happen again to anybody,” he said. “We want to alarm everyone about what happened and sort of make people behave a little bit differently.”
Marinsky, wearing a white swimming cap and dragging a buoy to make her visible to boaters, was taking her daily swim in the lake when she was hit by a power boat at approximately 2 p.m. Her husband, Dan Sharpe, said his wife is a strong swimmer and he didn’t worry about her until a police officer knocked on his door and told him there had been an accident.
“I was beside myself really until I got to see her again,” he said.
She was taken to the hospital with “moderate to severe injuries,” according to a police report.
Sharpe said her ribs were broken in multiple places and her lung is damaged. While she is out of intensive care, she will likely remain in the hospital while doctors monitor her injuries.
“She was so lucky that she was not killed or paralyzed or something,” Sharpe said.
Marinsky was not struck by the boat’s propellers, Sharpe said, but the buoy she was towing and its rope ended up entangled in them.
According to the police report, she was approximately 30 feet offshore when she was hit. Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss listed Christopher Thompson, 47, of Hinesburg as the boat’s operator.
“Alcohol was not a factor in the accident and Hinesburg Police will be conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident,” according to a Hinesburg Police Department press release. Koss said no charges have been filed at this time, and when police complete the investigation, likely next week, they will determine whether to file charges.
Koss said the incident is unusual.
“I’ve been here seven years and I’ve never responded to a boating incident on the lake,” he said. He added that Hinesburg’s fire chief, Al Barber, told Koss he could only recall two incidents on the lake in 35 years.
The Lake Iroquois Association sent out a letter to homeowners on the lake regarding the incident.
“We all enjoy and love our lake and want everyone to do so safely,” the letter stated. “No one can undo what has happened, but we can all help prevent future tragedy. Please take this opportunity to remind friends and family of state law and maritime safety rules.”

The letter listed a summary of maritime rules applicable on Lake Iroquois:
Power boats may not exceed 5 mph within 200 feet of the shore, a person in the water, other vessels or docks.
When towing waterskiers, wakeboarders or tubers, the boat must contain a spotter over the age of 12 in addition to the operator.
Vessels operating under power must yield the right of way to non-powered vessels.
Sharpe said the law that requires power boats to not exceed 5 miles per hour when within 200 feet of the shore, a person in the water or other vessels is routinely ignored.
“I like power boats, frankly, but I’m not sure this is the right place to have big boats that would be much more suitable on bodies of water like Lake Champlain or Bomoseen,” he said.
Sharpe said changes need to be made at the lake.
“This is a small piece of water. We kind of all know each other more or less on the lake. We mostly want to think of it as a safe haven for all of us. I hope this will be an alarm that people need to be more careful.”

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