- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - A power boat crash that killed five people and injured nine on Florida’s east coast has warranted a special investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board because of the seriousness of the accident, officials said. Monday.

The 22-foot power boat with 14 people aboard slammed into a docked tug boat on the Intracoastal Waterway Sunday about 7 p.m. near Palm Valley, about 25 miles southeast of Jacksonville, officials said.

NTSB member Deborah A.P. Hersman said the agency doesn’t investigate many boating accidents, but that the number of deaths and injuries met the agency’s criteria for a serious accident that needed special attention.

“Our investigations are very comprehensive and we leave no stone unturned,” she said.

Joy Hill, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said investigators are looking at several factors including speed, capacity of the boat, lighting and whether people were drinking.

Chuck Mulligan, a spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies and paramedics had to scramble to find construction material to build a bridge to the victims on the pier under construction.

“They did this knowing time was critical and once medical treatment was given those patients, they would be need to be brought off the crash site and on the makeshift dock,” Mulligan said.

Of the six victims being treated at Shands Jacksonville hospital, two were in critical condition Monday, one in serious and three in fair condition, officials said. Authorities have not said where the other three injured are being treated.

Debi Davis and her husband, Herb, who live nearby, watched as rescuers pulled the victims from a narrow section of the waterway.

“You could hear screaming as they pulled one woman out on a gurney board,” Davis said.

It was a clear evening when the power boat hit the 25-foot tug, and Davis said she was surprised by the amount of damage and the death toll.

“I don’t know how they could have missed it, the tug is hard to miss,” she said.

The five killed all died at the scene and were aboard the power boat, Hill said. They were Jacqueline R. Allen, 44, of Jacksonville; Robert Trenton Craig, 23, of Jacksonville Beach; Elizabeth L. Rosenfeld, 20, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; Inmaculada Pierce, 42, of Orange Park, Fla.; and Olivia Rose Carretero, 23, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

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