Boat collision terror recalled

Recounting the terrifying moments of a near-catastrophic fishing trip earlier this week on Lake Michigan, Barbara Ramoie said: “All I remember is water, bubbles and black."
Becky Vargo
Sep 6, 2013

The Grand Haven woman and her husband, Larry Baum, were in their fishing boat anchored in about 20 feet of water near the Port Sheldon pier when it was struck by a 36-foot powerboat at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

The jolt launched the 58-year-old woman off the bow of the couple's 17-foot Starcraft. Baum, 57, was tossed side to side in the boat, Ramoie said.

Ramoie said she ended up facedown in the water and unconscious. Her husband grabbed her pants and was able to flip her over.

"He found me (in the water) by the engine," she said.

Ramoie was regaining consciousness when her husband grabbed her arm to pull her into the boat. She said she was sliding back out of his grip when she looked at him and said, “Don’t let go of me.”

Baum was able to get ahold of his wife and pull her into the boat as some of the other boats in the area came to their aid.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Marine Patrol responded and made sure the smaller boat was not sinking. Ramoie said the sheriff's deputy put his jacket and a life jacket on her.

“He said, ‘We need to get her to shore,’” she recalled.

The Sheriff's Department boat met emergency vehicles at the state boat launch in Port Sheldon, said Sgt. Cal Keuning. Paramedics placed Ramoie on a backboard and took her by ambulance to North Ottawa Community Hospital.

Ramoie suffered a head injury and, days later, noted that she was having a little trouble with short-term memory.

Her husband was bruised from being tossed around in the boat, she said.

“We’re lucky to be alive,” Ramoie said. “I don’t know how we even survived it.”

Ramoie said they were anchored and fishing with several other boats when the collision happened.

“I looked at my phone — I remember it was 5:56 p.m.," she said. "I looked up and I said, ‘Larry, do you see that boat?’”

Baum told her the boat would go around them. But when they realized it wasn't going around them, they stood up, waved their arms over their heads and screamed at the approaching boat.

The larger, cigarette-type boat struck the couple's fishing boat, and then circled back to the scene.

“They kept saying, ‘We’re sorry, we were talking, we didn’t see you,’” Ramoie said.

Keuning said both boats suffered some damage, but were able to leave under their own power.

Police originally identified the pilot of the larger boat as Steven Rescorla of Grand Haven. Police said he told them that there were mechanical problems with the boat that affected its steering.

Keuning would not confirm the name of the 36-foot boat’s pilot because he had not been arraigned on charges related to the incident. However, Keuning said that person was arrested at the scene for operating under the influence of alcohol-watercraft.

Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz said they were expecting the report for review.

“It appears he was arrested, lodged and released,” Frantz said. “A warrant request, I’m told, is forthcoming. Once that happens, an arraignment will be set.”

Rescorla, when reached at his Grand Rapids business Thursday afternoon, had no comment.

Court records show that Rescorla had a similar charge in Ottawa County dismissed in 1998. He in turn pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a watercraft.

Rescorla had no other charges on his record in Ottawa County. Keuning said he did not have any information as to whether or not the boat pilot had charges in any other jurisdictions.

 

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