Alcohol, speed and a lack of instruments for night boating all contributed to a fatal boat crash Saturday night off Vashon Island that killed one man and sent five people to the hospital, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday identified Justin Hagerty as the 28-year-old man who was killed. He died from drowning, and his death was ruled an accident.
Hagerty was the owner and driver of a 20-foot, 200-horsepower motorboat that slammed broadside into a 38-foot, unoccupied sailboat at the Dockton Park Marina around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott. Hagerty and his five passengers were heading home to Vashon Island from a bull-riding event at the Tacoma Dome when they crashed into the sailboat that was legally moored about 200 yards offshore, Abbott said.
The force of the crash sent Hagerty and another man into the water.
A second boat carrying five people — all friends of Hagerty and his passengers — was following and pulled out of the water one man with a broken arm, said Abbott. They then found Hagerty unconscious and floating face down in the water. They attempted to resuscitate him on the dock before medics took over, but Hagerty died at the scene, Abbott said.
Hagerty’s passengers — three men and two women — ranged in age from 25 to 31, according to Abbott. As of Monday, two had been released from Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, but three others were still being treated for injuries, he said.
No one on either boat was wearing a life vest, according to Abbott. Based on witnesses’ statements and the number of empty beer cans found on the motorboat, Abbott said everyone on Hagerty’s boat was impacted by alcohol.
Hagerty was also driving too fast, and his motorboat was “on plane,” which means it was essentially skimming on the surface of the water, he said.
On the night of the crash, there was no moon and it was so dark that members of the sheriff’s Marine Unit had to use radar and a thermal-imaging system to safely navigate to the crash scene, Abbott said.
Investigators found Hagerty’s boat didn’t have any instruments, such as radar or GPS, to help travel at night.
“This is how it was explained to me: Imagine trying to fly a helicopter at night with the GPS on your phone,” Abbott said of the lack of instrumentation.
Though the law doesn’t require specific instruments for night boating, Abbott said, vessels without radar, GPS or a thermal-imaging system typically travel slowly at night, with everyone aboard acting as a lookout for rocks or other hazards. But that wasn’t the case in Saturday’s crash, said Abbott, when no one was acting as a lookout and the boat was traveling at an estimated 15 to 20 knots — or about 17 to 23 mph.
As part of the death investigation, Abbott said, Hagerty’s blood was drawn, but it can take up to eight weeks to get the results from toxicology tests to determine his blood alcohol content.