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Boat tragedy: man tells of rescue attempt

The scene at the Ferry Terminal after the fatal boat crash last night (Photograph by Simon Jones)

The owner of a local charter vessel has described how his crew found the 62-year-old woman killed in a marine crash on Thursday night.

Mary Elizabeth McKee, from New Zealand, was killed and two men, including her husband, were injured when two boats collided in Hamilton Harbour shortly before 11pm.

According to police, a 26-year-old Bermuda resident was driving a 17ft boat from the Front Street Ferry Terminal towards White’s Island when the vessel collided with a 9ft Zodiac. The three people travelling in the Zodiac were thrown overboard.

Denis Owen, owner of the ÜberVida, told The Royal Gazette that his boat had been used for a private event on Thursday night. It was docked in the harbour with the crew preparing for clean-up when they received a distress call indicating that someone was missing in the water, he said.

The crew immediately went to assist in the search and the boat came across someone in the water.

“Our team found her,” Mr Owen said.

“One of our crew members jumped into the water with a rescue device.” The victim was brought back on board and CPR was performed, he said.

Paramedics took over back at the dock, Mr Owen said.

“She was unresponsive.”

Mr Owen — who was not on-board the vessel at the time — said two other small boats were in the area searching when his staff members found the woman.

The majority of ÜberVida’s crew members, he said, had the STCW — Standard for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping — an international accreditation to handle emergency situation such as this.

While they were not able to save her, Mr Owen said he was very proud of the efforts of his crew, and said he had received praise for their response.

“Unfortunately the result wasn’t what we wanted,” he said. “Everyone was pretty upset.”

Ms McKee’s 69-year-old husband and a 26-year-old British man both received serious injuries in the crash, police said. As of late yesterday afternoon, both men remained in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

The driver of the other boat was arrested on suspicion of impaired operation of a watercraft.

“He complied with a demand for breath samples and passed the test,” police said.

“However, he remains in custody pending further enquiries.”

Ralph Richardson, with the Bermuda Water Safety Council, described the death as sad, especially during a festive time.

“My thoughts go out to the family of that individual,” he said.

Mr Richardson stressed the need for boaters to exercise “extreme caution” when out at night.

“It’s very difficult at night to tell how far away an object is from you,” he said.

The harbour, Mr Richardson said, is presently very crowded.

“Every boater that goes into Hamilton should do so at lower speeds.”

Another important consideration, he said, was the hundreds of new boat owners the council had become aware of on the water “that have very little experience”.

“I would implore anyone that has bought a new boat to become very aware of the rules,” Mr Richardson said.

Operating a boat at night is a completely different experience from the daytime, Mr Owen echoed.

Referencing the 10-knot speed limit in place for vessels in the harbour, he suggested that perhaps a five-knot limit at night was warranted.

“If you can’t see properly, you shouldn’t be going fast,” he said.

Jeff Baron, Minister of National Security, described the incident as “a sad and tragic event”.

“We extend our sincerest and deepest condolences to the family of the victim and hope for a swift recovery of those injured,” he said in a statement on Friday.

The safety of all on the island was of “paramount concern”, the minister said.

“We continue to encourage care and concern during this very busy time in Bermuda.”

Police continue to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to contact 247-1744 or Crime Stoppers at 800-8477