Alabama Marine Police are unsure what led to a rash of boat collisions on north Alabama lakes this spring, including a Friday accident that killed a Florence fisherman.
Robert Neal Hunt, 31, of Florence, was killed when the bass boat he was driving collided with another on Wilson Lake at the mouth of Fleet Harbor in Muscle Shoals about 11:15 p.m. Friday. Marine Police Officer Chad Dyer said a preliminary investigation shows Hunt and a passenger were leaving the harbor when the boat collided with another occupied by two people that was headed down river toward Wilson Dam.
Marine Police Capt. John Clifton said the agency is concerned about the number of boats running into one another on waterways.
“We've had four collisions on Guntersville (lake),” Clifton said. “There was one on Wheeler at Decatur, one down on Pickwick and now the one on Wilson. We're not sure what's going on. Everyone just needs to be careful while they are on the water and watch out for the other guy.”
Friday's collision was the first fatal accident on Wilson Lake, Clifton said. The victims of the other collisions suffered cuts, bruises and broken bones, he said. The other collisions occurred during daylight.
Clifton said investigators are receiving conflicting accounts on how Friday's accident occurred.
“We're having a hard time tying to sort out exactly what happened,” he said.
Dyer said it could be next week before the accident investigation is completed.
Dyer said the investigation's focus includes determining if navigation lights were on board both boats and if they were being used when the vessels collided.
Both boats were competing in a weekly bass tournament being staged out of Fleet Harbor boat ramp, Dyer said.
Witnesses reported the boat that struck Hunt's went over the top of the vessel, shearing off the outboard motor in the process.
“If you shut down the engine of a bass boat all of the sudden like you would when trying to avoid a collision, the front end of your boat is going to raise up in the air and possibly go over the top of the other boat if you hit it,” Clifton said.
Hunt's death was the eighth boating fatality in Alabama this year, a marine police spokeswoman said. It is the first boating fatality of 2010 on Wilson Lake.
Dennis Sherer can be reached at 256-740-5746 or dennis.sherer@TimesDaily.com.