Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Coverage

6 April 1997 Accident

We have several news clips, photos, and the newgroup discussion of the 6 April 1997 Fort Lauderdale accident where a Bayliner deck boat took on water and was sucked under a moored barge, killing 2 German tourists. We have seen, but do not have, a home video of the accident.

If you have any comments about the accident or our coverage we'd love to hear them. Just click on our mail box and drop us a note or E-mail us at

  • 11 April RBBI, Exactly what Bayliner model was it? 2 photos

  • 8 April Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) , Boating Vets Blame Bridge Construction

  • 7 April Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) , Intracoastal Boating Accident Kills 2

  • 7 April Miami Herald, Death on the Intracoastal has a photo note this photo shows the prop rooster tail due to bow sinking

  • 7 April 1997 AP story in the Stillwater Newspress, Boat Swamped, Couple Dies

  • WFOR 4 CBS (Miami FL), Home Video Captures Fatal Boat Accident has a photo

  • WTVJ NBC 6 Miami introductory article has a photo

  • WTVJ NBC 6 Miami repost of MSN, Waterway Tragedy Kills 2 Tourists has a map of area

  • CNN webpost 6 April 1997, 2 Die When Florida Pleasure Boat Dives Under Barge has photo

  • Copy of a discussion in recboats newsgroup of the accident

  • Copy of the recboats newsgroupdiscussion after the accident was aired on Dateline on 21 November 1997.

    Exactly which Bayliner model was it?

    by Gary Polson @ RBBI 11 April 1997
    updated as more info became available
    Many have asked exactly which model the accident craft was. We are speculating like everyone else, but using the facts that the news reports call it a 25 foot deck boat with a rated capacity of 13, looking at the photos, and using some info on a rental site (Anchor Marine Corp) which rents a Bayliner deck boat (info is reposted below), our assumption is that it was a larger version of the Rendezvous model described and shown below. We are unable to find deck boat info on the Bayliner web site.

    On April 12 we found a posting in dated April 11 suggesting it was a Rendezvous.

    They (Anchor Marine) have a 23 foot Bayliner Rendezvous deck boat with a capacity of 8. It is a 120 HP unit that rents for $95 for 2 hrs, $150 for 4 hrs, or $195 for 8 hours. Anchor shows the photo below on the left, while one of the Miami Herald accident photos is shown on the right.

    Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale)
    Tuesday 8 April 1997 Page 1B
    By JOSE LAMBIET Staff Writer


    Veteran boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale on Monday blasted construction of the new 17th Street Causeway bridge for creating hazardous sailing conditions under the bridge.

    Their comments came after a tragic boating accident on Sunday in which two German tourists were killed and a mother of three was seriously injured.

    Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Barbara Kelleher said the state was investigating the construction site's role in the accident.

    "The equipment and the barge [have) been out there for several months and this is the first incident," she said. "But our construction people and the contractor are assessing the situation to see if anything needs to be done."

    Josef Federl, 62, and his wife, Maria Federl, 58, drowned in strong currents under the causeway when the small craft they were riding in took on water, drifted and slammed into the slanted edge of a construction barge before sinking.

    Nine other people, including three children between 7 and 12 years of age, were thrown from the rented 25-foot Bayliner into the murky Intracoastal waters. Two swam to safety while the others were plucked from the water by the Coast Guard and Florida Marine Patrol.

    The children and three other passengers were treated at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

    Five were released but the children's mother, Kristin Kalnow, 46, was still at the hospital's Coronary Care Unit in serious but stable condition.

    The project calls for building a temporary bridge that would facilitate the construction of a new mammoth drawbridge. The project was contracted by the state's Department of Transportation to Gimrock Construction International of Miami. Project manager Robert Sorrentino was not available for comment Monday night.

    Drawbridge tender Paul Mann said some changes were already under way in the wake of accident, and they should be completed by mid-week.

    "They're moving the barge," he said, "and they're putting up some more safety lights."

    Boaters and mariners along the Intracoastal, meanwhile, said boating in that area had become more difficult. A large crane and several small barges are moored underneath the bridge's supports and force boats to use bottlenecked channels. The situation becomes particularly dangerous on weekends, when uninterrupted rows of boats cruise the Intracoastal, boaters said.

    "I've been a captain in town for 25 years," said Capt. Jonny Outlaw, owner of American Boat Rental, "and even I tap the fenders on the sides of the bridge once in a while. Now, with all the equipment, it's even more difficult. There is less room to sail."

    Another boat rental owner, Don Kjos of Watersports Unlimited, said Monday he has not allowed people who rent his boats to pass underneath the bridge and has made Port Everglades off limits.

    "I tell people who rent my boats to stay north of the causeway," he said. "If anyone crosses it and I find out about it, I keep their $300 deposit."

    Family and friends of the dead, meanwhile, grieved for the two victims. In the Bayview district a somber-faced John Magee, who was at the helm of the boat when it sunk, declined to comment.

    Copyright 1997, SUN-SENTINEL

    Sun-Sentinel - Ft. Lauderdale
    Monday 7 April 1997 Page 1A
    By EVELYN LARRUBIA Staff Writer

    Staff Writers Jose Lambiet and Vanessa Bauza contributed to this report.


    Two German visitors were killed Sunday afternoon when a small pleasure boat they were riding in began to sink, then slammed under a barge in the busy Intracoastal Waterway just north of the 17th Street Causeway.

    A big wake and strong current were blamed for the accident, which killed Josef Federl, 62, and his wife, Maria Anna Federl, 58, and landed another woman in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, a Florida Marine Patrol official said.

    However, investigators are still trying to determine whether operator error was involved. Some witnesses told the Marine Patrol that the wake of a larger boat flooded the vessel.

    The Federls and their 32-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter were among a group of 11 that rented the 25-foot Bayliner deckboat from Courtesy Boat Rentals, just south of Las Olas Boulevard on the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale, to cruise South Florida's waterways on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

    Also along for the ride were another couple with their three small children, a Fort Lauderdale man identified as John McGee - who was operating the boat - and his girlfriend. The names of the others were not available on Sunday.

    Shortly before 2:30 p.m., a large wake washed over the side of the boat, flooding it, said Karin Bergholm-Shoemaker, an outreach officer with the Florida Marine Patrol.

    McGee started heading north under the bridge, apparently trying to get to the dock at Pier 66, said Detective Clinton Ward, a Fort Lauderdale Police spokesman.

    "He didn't appear to be experienced enough to deal with a boat taking on water like that," Ward said. "He had a hard time handling the boat."

    Because the moored barge was between the bridge and the pier, the driver nuzzled up to it and tried to steady the boat, Ward said. But the bow of the boat was sinking, Ward said, and a man who was trying to help people off the boat - either into the water or onto passing boats - was sinking with it.

    As the frantic passengers tried to abandon the boat, it hit the sloped bow of the barge and took on more and more water, said Bergholm-Shoemaker. Strong currents estimated at 8 to 10 knots shoved the boat underneath the barge, taking passengers down with it.

    Diners at the Riverwatch restaurant at the Marriott watched helplessly as the boat went down.

    "It was a matter of seconds," said Theresa Styka, who was at the restaurant with friends and relatives after a day of boating. "All of them had life preservers on, but nobody had jumped off the boat. We couldn't understand why they didn't jump off the boat."

    Someone radioed the Coast Guard for help and passersby tried to help the people out of the water into other boats, but officials said the strong currents made rescue efforts difficult.

    The boat resurfaced several yards into the channel, upside down.

    "When our first units arrived, they heard them screaming: `Help, Help. Save us,'" said Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Galloway.

    Galloway was traveling in a second Coast Guard vessel, which helped in the rescue.

    He said he pulled up to a chaotic scene. They didn't even know how many passengers they were looking for, and a language barrier made it difficult to communicate with the people they were trying to help.

    "They were in shock or a blank stare. They couldn't understand," Galloway said.

    Coast Guard crews fished among the floating cushions, life vests, caps and coolers, pulling passengers out of the water. They even managed to pull some out from beneath the barge, Galloway said.

    They pulled out six adults and all three children and took them to the Lauderdale Marina, just north of the Causeway on Northeast 15th Street, and went back to search for the missing.

    Josef Federl was the first to turn up dead, near the bridge pilings.

    Police and Florida Marine Patrol boats tried to keep pleasure boaters out of the area as helicopters helped Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue divers look for more passengers.

    At 4:40 p.m., divers pulled Maria Anna Federl out from under the barge and called off the search.

    McGee and his girlfriend, the three children - two girls, aged 7 and 9, and a boy, 12 - and their mother were taken to Broward General Medical Center for respiratory and internal injuries after swallowing a lot of sea water. The mother, who is 46, was admitted; the rest were released.

    The Florida Marine Patrol has not cited anyone for the accident, but the investigation is continuing. Officials said the number of passengers was not excessive for the small boat, which can hold up to 13 people or 1,800 pounds.

    But local fisherman said they worried that the channel is hard to maneuver - especially for an inexperienced boater.

    "The outgoing tide creates a current going under the bridge. It's a known factor if you're an experienced sailor," said David Raymond, first mate on a sport fishing boat. "When you got a boat loaded with 11 people who probably don't know what they're doing squeezing through there with a ripping current you're bound to see some trouble probably,"

    Copyright 1997, SUN-SENTINEL

    Miami Herald
    Monday 7 April 1997
    Herald Staff Writer

    Death on the Intracoastal

    Boat goes under barge; 2 are killed

    `The boat went under the barge and came out the other side all ripped up.'


    TRAGEDY UNFOLDS: A 25-foot Bayliner with 11 people on board starts to sink near Fort Lauderdale's Pier 66. A strong current pulled the boat under a nearby barge causing the death of a German couple.

    German couple drowned and six other people were injured Sunday when a swift current dragged a boat laden with family and friends underneath a barge on the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale.

    Diners and employees at the waterside California Cafe Bar and Grill at Pier 66 Resort & Marina saw the tragedy unfold about 2:20 p.m. on the east side of the 17th Street Causeway.

    They watched as the 25-foot Bayliner took a wake over the bow and started sinking with 11 people on board, including three children. A swift current pulled the foundering boat toward a large gray barge moored partly beneath the bridge.

    ``The whole front of it was sinking,'' said Armando Abreu, a waiter at the California Cafe. ``The current was pulling it beneath the barge.''

    ``The boat went under the barge and came out the other side all ripped up,'' said Abreu, who helped pull one of the victims from the water. He and other California Cafe employees and boaters rushed over to help as did a U.S. Coast Guard boat that was doing a routine boarding nearby across the channel.

    Josef Federl, 62, and his wife, Maria, 58, of Germany, both drowned, said Karin Shoemaker, a Florida Marine Patrol officer.

    Their son, 32, and daughter, 23, were unhurt, she said. Their names were not available late Sunday. Some of the people on the boat were believed to be from California and the boat's pilot was believed to be from Fort Lauderdale, Shoemaker said.

    Rescue divers found Josef Federl's body without a life preserver stuck in the pilings under the bridge, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Calloway. His wife's body was found with a life preserver under the barge, he said.

    The rescuers had some communication problems with the victims, some of whom apparently spoke only German, Calloway said.

    Other injuries

    Three children, two girls ages 7 and 9 and a 12-year-old boy, were treated and released from Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

    Their mother, 46, was admitted in serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit. She is expected to survive, although she has a significant amount of water in her lungs, said Chuck Malkus, spokesman for Broward General Medical. Their father did not require treatment.

    Two other people, a man and woman, both 40, were treated and released from the hospital. Another two people did not require treatment. The names of the victims were not available late Sunday.

    A wave churned up by another boat apparently splashed over the Bayliner's bow and the boat started to sink, Shoemaker said. Then the outgoing tide, which can reach 8 to 10 knots in the area, pulled the boat toward the barge, she said. The boat hit the barge and then slipped beneath it.

    The boat was rented but it was unclear from whom. The Bayliner did not appear overloaded and did contain enough life preservers, but the people were not required to wear them, she said.

    ``There was sufficient equipment on the boat,'' Shoemaker said. ``But they just didn't have enough time to get to it.''

    People were screaming

    Bill Brunetta and his wife, Mary Lou, and their four children were sitting on a dock just south of the bridge when they heard people screaming.

    ``It hit the front of the barge,'' Bill Brunetta said. ``Bodies were everywhere. People were jumping into the water.''

    ``In less than 30 seconds it was gone,'' he said. ``It was under the water.''

    After the boat slipped beneath the barge coolers and cushions and life preservers started floating away. ``What a shame how a nice afternoon can go sour,'' Brunetta said.

    Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald

    Stillwater Newspress
    7 April 1997
    AP report

    Boat Swamped, Couple Dies

    Fort Lauderdale, Fla, (AP) - A rental boat took on water after a large wake and a strong current sucked it under a moored barge, killing a German couple and injuring another passenger.

    The captain of the boat, which was carrying 11 people, apparently tried to steady the 25-foot Bayliner Sunday, and steered it alongside the larger barge.

    "He didn't appear to be experienced enough to deal with a boat taking on water like that," said police spokesman Detective Clinton Ward. "He had a hard time handling the boat."

    As frantic passengers tried to escape, the boat hit the sloped bow of the barge and took on more water, authorities said. Strong currents shoved it beneath the barge, taking passengers down with it.

    "Bodies were everywhere," Bill Brunetta, who was sitting on a nearby dock with this family, told the Miami Herald. "People were jumping into the water. In less that 30 seconds it was gone. It was under the water."

    The boat resurfaced several yards out in the channel, upside down.

    Those at the scene said they saw life jackets floating everywhere but on the people."

    Authorities said the boat has a capacity of 11 people.

    WFOR 4 CBS Miami FL Web post

    Home Video captures fatal Boat Accident; reveals fatal mistakes

    Second of Impact

    Two tourists from Germany are dead, and another tourist is in the hospital after a freak boat accident which demonstrates the need for boaters to know emergency procedures.

    The group of nine were out Sunday on a rented boat, when another boat swampted with craft. As they struggled to get to shore, the passengers shifted to one side and failed to kill their engine. The combination of events sant the craft under a barge. The german couple, which were not wearing life jackets, were killed.

    The florida marine patrol is investigating.

    WTVJ NBC 6 Miami Introductory Article

    Waterway tragedy kills two tourists

    Hundreds of people watched it all unfold on the Intracoastal, just off the Pier 66 Resort. Nine of eleven on the boat were pulled to safety by rescuers. But a German couple-- 55-year-old Anna Maria Federl and her 62-year-old husband Josef Federl, were on the boat swamped by a wake, as currents swept it beneath a construction barge tied to the 17th Street Causeway Bridge. The Marine Patrol said there were enough life jackets aboard the rented boat, though at least one passenger, Josef Federl, was not wearing one when he died.

    WTVJ NBC 6 Miami MSNBC repost
    article by Nick Bogert

    Waterway tragedy kills two tourists


    Tuesday, April 8- There are a lot of questions, in the wake of a waterway tragedy in Fort Lauderdale that killed two German tourists over the weekend. Investigators want to know . . . was the boat that crashed into a barge, and then burrowed under it, overloaded? And did the operators really know how to control the boat?

    Investigators at Marine Patrol say that it may be days, even weeks, before any decision will be made as to whether or not any criminal charges will be filed in this accident which involved a rented boat and treacherous currents.

    One of the survivors, John Magee refused comment on what happened on Sunday. Authorities said that Magee was at the helm of a 25-foot bayliner at the time of the accident.

    Hundreds of people watched it all unfold on the Intracoastal, just off the Pier 66 Resort. The Coast Guard said they saw the people on the boat bailing out water just before the crash.

    One witness, David Putzer of Atlanta, said, “We heard screaming . . . we saw Coast Guard members jump in the water and throw life rings out. Then we noticed that there were people hanging on the pilings of the bridge.

    Putzer caught rescues in progress on tape, from his balcony. Nine of eleven on the boat were pulled to safety by rescuers. But a German couple-- 55-year-old Anna Maria Federl and her 62-year-old husband Josef Federl, were on the swamped boat, as currents swept it beneath a construction barge tied to the 17th Street Causeway Bridge. The couple's limited English skill may have been a factor.

    Said U.S. Coast Guard Scott Calloway said, ;When out guys were telling them to take this line and this jacket, they couldn't understand them.

    The 25-foot bayliner, rented at Bahia Mar, is built to hold up to 13 people. There was a wake that came over the side of the boat and it started taking on water. The people were preparing themselves . . . they knew something was coming up, they put their life jackets on. The current was running about 8 to 10 knots, which dragged them right into the barge, said Karin Shoemaker of the Florida Marine Patrol.

    Since the water in the bow tilted the boat up, the engine was slightly out of the water, which reduces maneuverability, said Shoemaker.

    Magee's girlfriend, Kim Goebel, and Magee himself, appeared unharmed from the accident. Authorities do not yet know how experienced a boater Magee is, and officials at the Club Nautico rental counter would not comment on what safety instructions they gave Magee and his passengers, when they rented a boat there yesterday.

    Florida Marine Patrol said that inexperienced boaters are a frequent cause of accidents. You don't have to have any type of boating experience to purchase, or to rent a boat. It's here's my credit card . . . here's the boat, have a nice day, said Shoemaker.

    Dockmaster Dave Culver said that everyday he sees the challenges that the 17th Street Bridge poses. There's a lot of wake here in the Intracoastal. There can be up to 6 to 8 knots of current sometimes . . . it can be a little tricky out there.
    One question posed is why did most of the passengers stay with the bayliner as it went below the barge? It may be the terror and the panic, that may have been a contributing factor, said Shoemaker.

    Florida Marine Patrol The Florida Marine Patrol released the identities of the survivors of the crash: John Magee of Fort Lauderdale, who was apparently piloting the boat, and there is no word yet as to whether or not he will be charged; Kim Goebel of Fort Lauderdale, who investigators say is Magee's girlfriend; the victim's son, Tomas Federl of Cincinnati and their daughter Kristina Federl Roth of Germany.

    Also on board was the Karl and Kristina Kalnow of Cincinnati and their three children, ages 7. 9, and 12. Kristina Kalnow, still remains hospitalized at Broward General in serious condition.

    The Marine Patrol said there were enough life jackets aboard the rented boat, though at least one passenger, Josef Federl, was not wearing one when he died.

    When renting a boat, it's standard practice that enough life jackets be supplied for everyone on board the boat.

    copyright & copy; 1996 MSNBC

    CNN webpost  April 6, 1997

    2 die when Florida pleasure boat dives under barge

    barge FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) -- A pleasure boat carrying 11 people took on water and then dove under a barge Sunday, killing a German couple.

    A U.S. Coast Guard boat was responding to the emergency and was just 100 yards away when a strong current caused the 25-foot boat to nose-dive under the barge at about 2:30 p.m., Petty Officer David French said. The pleasure boat went under the barge and came out the other side, engines still running and "semi-refloated," French said.

    The body of Josef Federl, 62, was dragged out of the water by a tug boat crew, who tried to revive him, officials said. His wife, Maria Anna Federl, 58, was found wedged under the barge. They were from Roth, Germany.