Two boats traveling in opposite directions in Banks Channel collided early on the morning of Friday, Oct. 5, at approximately 2:15 a.m. near the intersection of Banks and Motts channels.
North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission Officer Fred Gorchess said he received a call from his dispatcher and headed to the scene of the accident where emergency responders from the United States Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach were on site examining the scene, while on shore Wrightsville Beach Police and New Hanover Regional Medical Center assisted.
The first responder was a sport fishing boat that was anchored close by in Banks Channel; its passengers were awakened by the sound of the impact, Gorchess said.
When Gorchess arrived on the scene he said one of the boats was still afloat, and one was upturned and was towed to shore. From what NCWRC gathered from the accident, Gorchess said the two boats collided head-on, both traveling at approximately 25 miles per hour, and that alcohol was involved on both sides of the collision. Both boats were recreational vessels and there were two people on board the Sea-Pro traveling south and three people on the Sundance skiff traveling north.
Everyone on board the two boats were accounted for. The two passengers from the Sea-Pro were taken to NHRMC where they were treated for nonlife threatening injuries, Gorchess said.
After investigating the incident, Gorchess said the cause of the collision was most likely a combination of alcohol, not paying attention and the fact that it was pitch-black outside. None of the passengers on the two boats had met each other before that night, Gorchess said. Both drivers were charged with boating while intoxicated, careless and reckless, and the passenger in the Sea-Pro was charged for underage consumption and possession of a fraudulent driver’s license.
Due to the damage to the boats and the jarring during impact, Gorchess said it was impossible to determine whether or not both boats had their lights on.
“It was going to be hard with the impact because when boats hit it is a violent impact and the battery is thrown forward, so they lose power to the boat; the lights could have been launched out of the light holders; there are just so many things that happen when you hit that hard it would have been hard to determine,” Gorchess said. “We got reports that one boat had its lights on and the other one didn’t but we can’t say for sure if they both had them on or they both had them off.”
The eyewitness who claimed to have seen one of the boats without its lights was fishing in the area and also called the incident into Wrightsville Beach Police after he watched the collision.
Isaac Fisher, a night auditor at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, also said he heard the collision.
“Not long after 1 a.m. I was outside greeting our daily fresh linen delivery driver when we both heard a distant but alarmingly loud boom that we dismissed as an overloaded transformer tripping, which is not uncommon on the beach,” Fisher stated via email. “It wasn’t until around 1:30 a.m. that we began to hear a large emergency response down the road.”
Fisher also said that he heard what might have been one of the boats traveling in Banks Channel just before midnight.
“At 11:45 I was just outside the front door of the hotel greeting incoming, late arriving guests when I heard a boat with loud music and loud voices go by near the dock heading north,” he said. “The combination of noise and speed was obnoxious enough to take notice of the recklessness.”