What likely began as a fun weekend boating trip turned tragic when two men died after a boat overturned in the James River near the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in Newport News. The boat involved in this tragic incident was a 1975 Manatee.
Reports indicate that five people were on board the boat when it was “swamped” and the engine failed. Swamping occurs when a boat stays upright and fills with water.
The two men who lost their lives in this incident were Philip Earl Smallwood and William T. Smallwood Jr. The three other people on the Manatee were treated at Riverside Regional Medical Center and later released. Both men lived on Indian Woods Road in Windsor, N.C., according to the Virginian Pilot.
My deepest sympathies go out to the Smallwood family. Losing loved ones is always heartbreaking, but the pain is made even worse when the loss is sudden and completely unexpected.
The exact cause of the accident remains unknown. Marine Police impounded the Manatee to check the engine for any mechanical problems that could have possibly contributed to the incident. However, preliminary reports indicate that the boat was overloaded with the passengers and coolers.
If the preliminary reports are true, it appears this terrible accident could have been prevented. Sadly, this incident illustrates why it is so important to follow boating guidelines and to verify whether there is too much weight on a boat.
Unfortunately, boating accidents are a common occurrence in and around Newport News, Virginia Beach, and other cities. In 2013, there were 64 boating accidents in Virginia and 10 of those accidents involved fatalities.