By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
On Saturday, a Steiner Ranch resident and a friend went out for an evening sail on Lake Travis. The night ended with a power boat crashing into their sailboat and the power boat driver docking and fleeing the scene on foot.
The Steiner sailboat owner put the jib up in almost no wind. Before putting up the main the two, who wished to remain anonymous, jumped in the lake to cool off while staying close to the boat.
Minutes later, they noticed a Formula 34 cruiser power boat with lots of passengers steaming along at what was later estimated at 20 to 25 knots and heading right for them.
But the sailboat owner was telling his friend that it isn’t uncommon for power boaters to come close to sailors and then veer off at the last minute. Additionally it was still daylight and they had a sail up so they were very visible.
As the cruiser got closer, however, they realized it wasn’t veering so the two started to yell and wave their hands.
“We couldn’t see the driver since the bow of the other boat was up and we were down low in the water. Several of the folks on the bow of the other boat looked back and gestured to the unseen driver about us,” the sailboat owner said.
It didn’t help. The power boat kept coming.
“When I knew he was going to collide towards the front part of our boat, I told (my friend) to swim away from the boat, concerned about our boat shooting back onto us, there being falling debris from the impact, explosion, who knows what,” he said.
They swam as fast as they could away. When the sailboat owner looked back, the stern of his boat was rising up out of the water, rudder and prop exposed, and all the rigging was crashing down towards the front. Then the boat righted and moments later the bilge pump was pumping water out of the boat.
Several boaters nearby came immediately to help and call 911.
“The other boat hit us about 1/3 the way back on the port side, rode over on top of us since it’s bow was raised, and slid down the front of our boat pushing the bow under water and taking on water. The hull is damaged on the port side significantly, the bow roller was ripped off leaving a big hole on the front, and everything including the hatch forward was swept clean, not to mention all the rigging was destroyed,” the sailboat owner said.
The boat was not taking on water once the initial amount was pumped out.
Travis County Sheriff’s Office and Lake Travis Fire Rescue were on the scene. Everyone on the power boat was deposed by TCSO, which is still investigating the crash.
The owner of the power boat was cooperative and swam over to render aid.
But the driver of his boat proceeded to leave him and the scene and drove the power boat to shore and ran.
For the next two to three hours, TCSO, LTFR and a CareFlight helicopter searched the woods with spotlights and night vision goggles for the driver.
LTFR treated power boat patients that where shore based, said Robert Abbott, Interim Fire Chief.
The sailboat owner and passenger were in the one safe place when this occurred. “Anywhere else and we would have been seriously injured, or worse,” he said. “I’m just glad my wife and kids weren’t with us.”