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Sabrina Downes said her husband wasn't breathing after a bass boat hit the family's pontoon boat.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
A bass boat collided with a pontoon boat early Sunday morning on Claytor Lake, sending five people to the hospital.
Officers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries responded about 1:50 a.m. Sunday. Conservation officer Troy Phillips said the bass boat struck the rear end of the pontoon boat approximately 200 yards upstream from the Boy Scouts of America aquatic base.
The three occupants of the pontoon boat and the two occupants of the bass boat were taken to the hospital. Four have been released from Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, but one person was still hospitalized at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on Monday afternoon. Phillips said he was unsure of that person’s condition.
The driver of the pontoon boat received a head injury, but Phillips would not comment on whether the driver was the person who remained hospitalized Monday.
Sabrina Downes, 36, of Christiansburg said it was her husband, James Downes, 39, who was hospitalized. Downes said her husband was driving the pontoon boat while she and her 13-year-old daughter Breeanna rode as passengers.
Roanoke Memorial spokesman Eric Earnhart said James Downes was listed in serious condition Monday evening. Sabrina Downes said doctors at the hospital have said her husband’s status is “hour to hour.”
The mother of four said she and her daughter escaped with minimal injuries but were still sore Monday night. They were planning to see a doctor today to rule out possible concussions.
The Downeses were returning from catfishing and were in a cove near the Boy Scouts base when they heard the sound of the bass boat’s engine, Sabrina Downes said. James Downes had slowed his boat to avoid debris when the other boat “came right up behind us and flew right up over top of us and took my husband down,” Sabrina Downes said.
James Downes wasn’t breathing when his wife and daughter found him in a pool of blood, Sabrina Downes said. They shook him and screamed his name but he didn’t respond.
“I don’t understand how they could not have seen the pontoon boat,” Sabrina Downes said. “The lights were on. We had a red cabin. I don’t understand.”
The couple have been married 17 years and were high school sweethearts, Sabrina Downes said.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries would not confirm the names of those involved because the incident remains under investigation, Phillips said. No charges had been filed Monday evening.
Conservation officer Francis Miano said the department is inspecting both boats, and among other things, checking the boats’ lights since the incident occurred overnight, he said.
Both Phillips and Miano said it’s common for boaters to be on the water late at night and in the early morning hours, especially on the weekends.
Phillips said that in Virginia, as long as the watercraft is equipped with and displaying the proper lights, it is legal to operate at any hour.
Staff writers Jordan Fifer and Andy Soergel contributed to this report.
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