PENTICTON - A 28 foot boat hit and landed on top of the Kiwanis Walking Pier late Tuesday night near the Penticton Lakeside Resort. Police said alcohol might have played a part. No one was hurt in the incident.
The craft was sitting near the end of the pier and was visible for most of Wednesday. Boaters circled the area and many were taking pictures. Curious people approached temporary barricades preventing access to the small park leading to the pier. A barge arrived at around 1 p.m. and a crew loaded the busted boat onto the larger ship and took it away.
Boat owner Rene, 45, who declined to give his last name, was removing equipment from his vessel on Wednesday morning. He's been awake since the accident. He said he and a passenger were boating on Okanagan Lake last night. This was also his first outing with his new boat.
He said he saw the large red light at the very end of the pier but he didn't believe he was as close as he was. When he and his passenger saw the pier's railing he tried to turn. "I didn't have time. I was down to about 20 kph. I tried to throttle off but as soon as you throttle off you can't steer. It's a bigger boat than what I'm used to."
The boat rammed through the pier's left railing, rode up the infrastructure, tore a steel bench from its bolts and crashed through the right side railing before coming to a stop. It was completely out of the water. Several tourists were nearby on the pier at the time it happened.
"It was just terrible. Thank god nobody was hurt. I've seen (sic) people on the right and I started screaming," he said.
RCMP Constable Dan Moskaluk said the police are still investigating. Rene supplied breath samples and his alcohol levels were just under the legal limit. The boat owner might potentially be charged with unsafe or dangerous operation of a vessel.
“We are very fortunate that by a stroke of luck nobody was seriously hurt or killed," Const. Moskaluk said.
Rene said it was an accident. He said the pier's brown-red colour makes it hard to see at night and he was only going 20 km/h.
Penticton resident Winona Paul, 21, saw the boat head towards the pier. She was with five others that night. Just before the event she heard a boat's engine but it sounded too close. Then she saw the boat's lights.
"He was coming really fast towards us. I didn't know what to do, so I told all my friends, 'Look, there's a boat.' I (started) jumping up and down yelling, 'Stop!'"
The boat crashed 10 feet away from Paul, her boyfriend and four others. "It shook the whole pier and scared us all." The group had to walk around the vessel to get off the pier. The pier's flooring was wobbly and the engine was still running. She said she could smell fuel.
City officials stated the municipality will be looking to the owner to pay the cost of repairing the pier.
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Boat owner Rene (right), a Penticton resident, is questioned by the media on Wednesday afternoon. He was making the boat lighter for retrieval by removing engine and other components. Rene said what happened was an accident and he's glad no one was hurt or killed.
(SHANNON QUESNEL /InfoTel Multimedia)