OPP provide update as investigation continues into fatal Bobs Lake boat crash

The OPP on scene at Buck Bay of Bobs Lake via Attwood Lane in South Frontenac on Sunday, May 19, 2024, following a fatal boat crash the night prior. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

The tragic collision on Bobs Lake in May, which took the lives of three people, remains under investigation, according to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

The boat crash, which involved a speed boat and an open-hull fishing boat, occurred just before 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2024, during the Victoria Day long weekend. A large contingent of first responders rushed to the area, with still more arriving as mutual aid was called in from neighbouring jurisdictions. According to police, the involved boats were found one on top of the other alongside an abandoned concrete dock, and victims were treated on scene for over an hour, some after being pulled from the water in the Bucks Bay area of the lake, as Frontenac Paramedics ambulances and ORNGE helicopters transported the seriously injured parties to hospital.

A search continued into the night for one person who remained unaccounted for. Unfortunately, that person was located deceased and, according to police, three people were pronounced deceased at the scene: a 21-year-old female from South Frontenac Township, a 22-year-old female from Elginburg, and a 23-year-old male from South Frontenac. A total of five other people, aged 21 to 44, were reportedly taken to hospital with injuries of varying degrees of seriousness, police said the following day. Days later, the OPP confirmed with Kingstonist eyewitness reports of children having been on one of the boats, noting that “the two youths were transported to hospital and checked out as a precaution.”

Since then, the local OPP, along with specialized teams within the OPP and the Office of the Ontario Coroner, have carried out extensive investigations. On Sunday, May 26, the OPP issued an appeal to the public for any video captured around the Buck Bay area, also asking any witnesses to come forward.

Today, Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024, the Frontenac County Detachment of the OPP provided a brief update on the case in response to Kingstonist inquiries.

Despite rumours on social media, Constable Robert Martell confirmed that no charges have been laid in connection with the boat crash at this point.

“There are currently no charges laid in this incident,” Martell told Kingstonist in an email.

“The investigation is ongoing and charges may be laid at a later date.”

Further, Martell specified that the investigation is being conducted by the Criminal Investigation branch and led by Detective-Inspector Marty McConnell.

“All people involved have been accounted for. There are no outstanding persons from this vessel collision,” Martell relayed, noting that no further fatalities have occurred beyond the initial three, and that “everyone else involved is recovering.”

“The OPP cannot release personal health information. The status of the operator of the powerboat is included in that,” he stated.

Underscoring that he cannot discuss the specific factors being examined in the investigation, Martell shared that the following factors would generally be considered in any boat collision investigation:

  • Speed
  • Alcohol/drug impairment
  • Safety equipment used or not used
  • Weather
  • Operator requirements for boats
  • Time of day
  • Darkness
  • Underwater hazards
  • Navigation tools or indicators
  • Operator ability

Factors considered in this or any investigation are not limited to those above, however.

As many locally have discussed speed as a factor in the Buck Bay crash, Martell addressed that matter specifically.

“Our investigation will be ongoing to determine what impact speed may have played in this collision. A reconstructionist and traffic collision investigator, along with witness accounts will determine if speed plays a role. We are not releasing those determinations,” he said.

Martell explained that, with regard to speed on local waterways, “there is no prescribed speed limit on open water.” A speed limit could be posted in canals or more narrow waterways, he said, and a regulation under the Canada Shipping Act (2001) dictates that “No person shall operate a power-driven vessel or a vessel driven by electrical propulsion at a speed in excess of 10 km/h within 30 m (100 feet) of the shore” in any Ontario waterways.

“Safe boating begins with safety checks by the operator to have proper safety equipment under the Canada Shipping Act. A proper operator licence and a sober operator of the vessel [are required]. No alcohol or drugs should be consumed prior to or while operating a vessel. Life jackets or Personal Floatation Devices should be worn at all times,” Martell relayed.

“A detailed departure and return time should be communicated to family. Carrying a cell phone for emergencies is also helpful. Using navigation tools and safe boating practises will greatly reduce the chances of a collision or marine emergency.”

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this investigation and provide updated coverage as more information becomes available.

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