Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Boating Accident Coverage

24 November 1997 Accident

We have several news clips of the Fort Lauderdale Intercoastal Waterway accident where a speedboat sliced a cabin cruiser and all 6 on the cruiser were killed on 24 November 1997.

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

Reference Materials:

The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel has provided excellent coverage of the crash and we encourage you read their paper or visit their web site.

The Florida 1996 Recreational Boating Safety Report provides a great deal of statistics and information about prior boating accidents in the area.

Speedboat strikes fishing boat on Ft. Lauderdale waterway

Microsoft NBC
25 November 1997
A speedboat sliced through a cabin cruiser on the Intracoastal Waterway, killing all six people aboard the cruiser and scattering wreckage hundreds of yards along the waterway. The man and woman on the speedboat named Merrymaker were in critical condition Tuesday after Monday night’s accident.

‘(The cabin cruiser) sank immediately. All I could see out there was debris.’ Witness to accident.

THE SURVIVORS, who were hospitalized at Broward General Medical Center, were thrown into the water by their impact with the 31-foot cruiser, the Bill It.

Their 45-foot Sonic cigarette boat, a type of long, slender craft capable of high speeds, continued empty for about 1,500 feet until it rammed into a dock.

Jack Casey, who heard the accident and saw the speedboat hit the dock, said the cabin cruiser sank immediately. All I could see out there was debris.

Splintered wood and bloodstained cushions littered the dock behind a two-story condominium.

Detective Clinton Ward said it was unknown whether the cabin cruiser was moving when it was struck.

Identities of the victims were not released. Five of those killed were believed to be vendors attending a sales meeting put on by Rollins Truck Leasing Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, said security manager Curt Jones at company headquarters in Wilmington, Del. He had no further details.

Police believe the sixth victim was the owner of the 31-foot boat and the brother of one of the vendors.

Boats like the triple-engined Sonic are capable of speeds of more than 80 mph, but Broward sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal said it wasn't known how fast the Merrymaker was moving at the time of the accident. The accident site is a 25 mph zone and the boat was approaching a no-wake zone, where the boat was supposed to go much more slowly, he said.

Copyright 1997 Associated Press

6 killed as speedboat rams cabin cruiser

USA Today
25 November 1997
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A high-powered speedboat plowed across a cabin cruiser in the dark on the Intracoastal Waterway, killing all six people on the cruiser and scattering wreckage hundreds of yards along the waterway.

The man and woman on the speedboat named Merrymaker were in critical condition Tuesday at Broward General Medical Center after Monday night's accident. They were thrown into the water by the impact with the 31-foot cruiser, the Bill It.

The 45-foot Sonic speedboat, a type called a "cigarette boat" both for its long, slender shape and for one-time use in smuggling, continued down the waterway about 1,500 feet until it rammed a dock at a condominium.

Both boats were northbound on the waterway when the speedboat ran into and then rode up and across the cabin cruiser, said Broward Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal.

The cabin cruiser "sank immediately. All I could see out there was debris," said Jack Casey, who heard the accident and saw the speedboat hit the dock.

The cabin cruiser was raised from the bottom today, revealing a gaping hole on its starboard side.

Splintered wood and bloodstained cushions littered the dock struck by the speedboat.

Boats like the triple-engined Sonic are capable of speeds of more than 80 mph; Leljedal said it was believed to be speeding but it wasn't known how fast it was moving. The accident site is a 25 mph zone and the boats were approaching a "no-wake" zone, where traffic is supposed to go much more slowly, he said.

The cruiser was owned by Jay Colonna, 37, of Delray Beach, who had taken his cousin and visiting conventioneer John Colonna and four friends out for a ride, Leljedal said.

The five visitors were believed to be vendors attending a sales achievement meeting put on by Rollins Truck Leasing Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, said security manager Curt Jones at company headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

A guard outside the meeting hotel today turned away reporters.

The Intracoastal Waterway is a series of inland channels along the Atlantic coast. The site of the accident is popular with recreational boaters.

By the Associated Press

Six die in Broward Intracoastal boat collision

Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
25 November 1997
FORT LAUDERDALE - Six people were killed and two injured late Monday when a Cigarette-style boat slammed into a smaller boat from behind on the Intracoastal Waterway just south of the Sunrise Boulevard bridge.
A 45-foot Cigarette-type named "Merrymaker" was traveling north, "apparently at a high rate of speed," about 11:25 p.m. when it struck a 31-foot cabin cruiser named "Bill it" from behind, cutting it in half and killing all six people on board. Authorities have not determined the speed of the larger boat, but the speed limit is 25 mph in that area of the waterway.

"It was a gory scene," said Fort Lauderdale Fire Battalion Chief Tom Fredricks.

The speedboat continued north, striking a dock about a block north, then came to a stop in the water.

A man was pulled unconscious from under a seat in the speedboat and taken to Broward General Medical Center.

"He was grievously injured. We were unable to make him regain consciousness," Fredricks said.

A woman who was thrown from the speedboat was found floating in the water near 730 Intracoastal Drive by nearby residents, who lowered a boat lift and lifted her to the lawn. She was also taken to Broward General, apparently in shock, Fredricks said.

"I heard this tremendous explosion. It sounded like a sonic boom," said Carol Mathews, a resident of Long Island, N.Y., who is staying in one of the condos along the Intracoastal near where the accident happened.

Residents said the collision was so violent that the cabin cruiser was blown to bits.

"I don't think we knew there was another boat involved until we saw all the debris," Mathews said.

Margaret Andersen, a tourist from Ireland renting a unit at Holiday Isles Yacht Club, said, "I heard a bang like an engine blowing up. And you knew there was something wrong. I saw a boat drifting by, and it was empty, but there was smoke coming out of it.

"Then I saw debris from what appeared to be another boat. I saw a brown shoe and a white seat. And somebody from across the Intracoastal was yelling: `Call the police! Call the police!' There was somebody in the water calling: `Get me out of here.'

Witnesses said they didn't see the accident as much as they heard it.

"I was waiting for a plane to come down, that's how loud it was," said Teri Cala, also of Long Island, who was standing on a balcony near the waterway when the accident occurred.

Cala had gone out to have a cigarette when she heard a small series of explosions and saw flames coming from the engine of the speedboat.

"I was saying prayers," Cala said. "I hope some of the prayers work out for some of the people."

Lt. Joe Dwyer of the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department said a police dive team searched the waterway for victims and that officials were waiting for the Florida Marine Patrol to arrive to conduct a homicide investigation.

Residents along this stretch of the Intracoastal have complained for years about speeding boats at all hours because they create a wake that eats away at the sea walls and throws water on lawns.

"Speeding boats are a problem in this area. Periodically we have serious accidents on the Intracoastal Waterway between Las Olas and Commercial," Fredricks said.

Copyright © 1997 Sun-Sentinel Company and 
South  Florida Interactive, Inc.

Six die as speedboat rams cabin cruiser

November 25 1997
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) -- A high-powered speedboat plowed across a cabin cruiser in the dark on the Intracoastal Waterway, killing all six people on the cruiser and scattering wreckage hundreds of yards along the waterway.

The man and woman on the speedboat named Merrymaker were hospitalized Tuesday at Broward General Medical Center after Monday night's accident. They were thrown into the water by the impact with the 31-foot cruiser, the Bill It.

The 45-foot Sonic speedboat continued down the waterway about 1,500 feet until it rammed a dock at a condominium. Both boats were northbound on the waterway when the speedboat ran into and then rode up and across the cabin cruiser, said Broward sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal.

Jay Colonna, 37, the cruiser's owner and among the dead, had taken his cousin and a few out-of-state friends out for the evening.

His cousin John Colonna, 38, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, along with Donald Draper, 50, of Chicago, Joseph Mongelluzzo, 48, of Wilmington, Delaware, and Roger Wypyszynski, 60, of Bausman, Pennsylvania, were in town for a sales meeting held by Rollins Truck Leasing Corp. of Wilmington.

The sixth victim, Simon Prankerd, 32, of Lighthouse Point, Florida, also was a friend of Jay Colonna, who lived in Delray Beach.

The speedboat's owner, Stanley Cameron, 56, of Fort Lauderdale and passenger Deborah Keener, 44, of Houston were hospitalized after being pulled from the water. Cameron was in critical condition, Keener in serious condition.

Autopsies were ordered, and no charges were immediately filed.

Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

Fatal boat accident claims six

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
25 November 1997
By Donna Pazdera Staff Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE -- James "Jay" Colonna was a responsible, by-the-book kind of guy.
      When his cousin and some of his cousin's clients came to Fort Lauderdale for an annual convention, he wanted to show them a good time on his 31-foot Tiara cabin cruiser.
      But Colonna knew there would be drinking -- so he hired a designated pilot to steer his boat, the Bill It, along the Intracoastal Waterway Monday night. It didn't help.
      Colonna's boat became a deadly target when the 45-foot Sonic speedboat Merrymaker collided with Bill It's starboard side. Bill It splintered apart and sank; all six aboard were killed.
      The Merrymaker slammed into a seawall, spilling both its passengers into the water. The boat skimmed another 200 yards -- pilotless and engines revving -- before it crashed into a boat dock near the 900 block of Intracoastal Drive.
      Merrymaker's captain, Stanley W. Cameron, 56, is in critical condition at Broward General Medical Center with head injuries. His passenger, Deborah Keener, of Houston, Texas, is in serious condition at the hospital.
      The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating whether a combination of speed and alcohol contributed to the accident.
      Detectives aren't sure how fast the Merrymaker was traveling. But the sleek boat was powered by three 400-horsepower engines, making it capable of up to 90 mph, said sheriff's homicide Detective Robert O'Neil.
      No one thinks the boat was going anywhere near that fast in the confined waters of the Intracoastal, but investigators say it was going faster than the posted limit of 25 mph. Deputies also found an empty wine bottle aboard.
      "It's too early to place blame," O'Neil said. " We're going to wait until the accident reconstruction takes place next week."
      All of the dead sustained massive injuries from the collision, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said. Two of them -- Colonna and his pilot, Simon Prankerd -- drowned after sustaining their injuries, the Broward Medical Examiner's office said.
      The victims are: Colonna, 37, a construction company owner from Delray Beach; his cousin, John Colonna, 38, of Sicklerville, N.J.; Prankerd, 32, of Lighthouse Point; Donald Draper, 50, of Chicago; Roger Wypyszynski, 60, of Bausman, Pa. and Joseph Mongelluzzo, 48, of Wilmington, Del.
      "In 26 years, this is the worst accident I can remember," said Lt. Lee Palfrey of the Florida Marine Patrol.
      Florida leads the nation in boating fatalities. In 1996, 59 people died in boating accidents in Florida, down from 1995 when there were 82 deaths. So far this year, 63 people have died in boating accidents.
      That part of the Intracoastal is flanked mostly by single-family homes and low-rise condominiums. Other stretches are lit by the bars, marinas and high-rises along the water's edge.
      But this stretch, just south of Sunrise Boulevard, is dark. The Merrymaker was revving northward, rounding a wide curve, when the crash happened.
      No one on shore seems to have seen it. But many heard it.
      "We knew right away that something serious had happened," said Trey Urbahn, whose house borders the Intracoastal and was right in front of the accident scene.
      While he dialed 911, his wife ran outside to see what had happened. He walked outside after her, still on his cordless phone with emergency dispatchers, when he saw Colonna's cabin cruiser sinking.
      "Within 30 seconds it was gone, and all that was left was bubbles and debris," he said. "This thing just went down, boom."
      Just north of his house, close to the Sunrise Boulevard bridge, he heard a revving engine -- the empty Merrymaker, which had bounced off a seawall, then jammed against a dock.
      Through the darkness, his wife began screaming to see if there was anyone out there who needed help. They saw nothing but debris -- then heard a woman crying for help.
      "She was very clearly injured," Urbahn said.
      His first instinct was to pull her out of the water, but she told him it wouldn't work, she needed to be boosted. He tried to pull her up with a rope, to no avail.
      "She just was in agony," he said.
      When police arrived, they threw a line to her and pulled her to Urbahn's boat lift -- empty because his boat was in the repair shop. They lowered the lift and pulled her from the water. Rescue workers whisked her away.
      Then they found three other bodies, badly mangled by the impact, in the water. The impact punched a large hole in the starboard side of Bill It, which sank in about 25 feet of water, investigators said.
      A trail of splintered debris floated on the water. Shortly after daybreak, police divers found three more victims wedged in the wreckage of the boat.
      The accident shattered two outings designed to appeal to out-of-towners.
      Speedboat captain Cameron was entertaining Keener, a friend.
      And Colonna's boat was being used to entertain his cousin's friends and colleagues in town for a sales convention.
      John Colonna was among a group of more than 135 people in Fort Lauderdale for the annual Achiever's Conference for Rollins International, the nationwide truck-leasing firm based in Wilmington, Del.
      The conference was to open to vendors and suppliers of the truck-leasing firm, who met sales and performance goals -- and pleasure was on the agenda as much as work.
      Monday, the last full day of the convention, was devoted to golf, fishing and the beach.
      The Colonnas decided to use Jay Colonna's boat to end the day with a a party cruise on the Intracoastal.
      But people who know the waterway sometimes fret about boating there. Some people simply insist on going too fast.
      Bill Coffey, a maintenance worker at the Intracoastal Towers condominium near the accident scene, watched as wreckage was pulled from the water and as the Merrymaker was towed away.
      Coffey has often seen boats go speeding past and worried about the consequences.
      "I see this all the time and in my mind, I knew it was going to happen."
      Staff Writers Kathy Bushouse, Steve D'Oliveira, Ardy Friedberg, Jose Lambiet, Larry Lebowitz and Sarah Lundy and staff researcher Magaly Morales contributed to this report.

Fatal boat crash reignites debate over waterway safety

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
25 November 1997
By Tim Collie Staff Writer
For boaters whose only concerns are sun, fun and speed, it's I-95 without the consequences.
      On the Intracoastal Waterway, you can drive a boat as fast as you want, drink as much as you want, and never worry about losing your license.
      "That's because you don't have a license," says Lt. Lee Palfrey of the Florida Marine Patrol. "And if you don't have a license, there's nothing I can take away from you.
      "I can write boaters up for being drunk, for speeding, and they can collect as many of these tickets as they want, but they're never going to lose their boat," Palfrey said. "The worst I can do to them is maybe get them off of the water for the rest of the night."
      In the bloody wake of a Monday's night accident that killed six, a long-simmering debate over safety along the waterway has again erupted.
      On one side are boaters and homeowners who say the loose laws and dangerous behavior of some pleasure boaters has turned the waterway into an aquatic free-for-all.
      On the other are marina owners, government officials and leaders of the South Florida's formidable boat-building industry, who say the state's tourist allure rests largely on its liberal boating laws.
      A tourist from Illinois, say, has little time on a two-week vacation to take some test to drive a boat, they argue.
      Rather than pushing new laws, the state should beef up the number of marine safety officers and offer more voluntary boating safety courses.
      But neither tourists nor residents are exactly rushing to boater safety courses, say local marine patrol officers. The only people required to take boating safety courses are teen-agers and adolescents 17 and under, a result of a law enacted in 1996 after pop singer Gloria Estefan was involved in a boating accident that left a 29-year-old man dead.
      All too often adults see the water as one giant fun zone where the laws of the land don't apply, officers say.
      "We have a tendency to look at boating as a recreation as opposed to being a a form of transportation," said Terry Walters, an officer with Boca Raton's three-person marine unit.
      A lot of the people stopped on the Intracoastal are tourists from the Midwest, Europe and other far-flung places who have no idea they're doing anything wrong, officers say.
      "It's not that they're malicious, it's just that most of these people have never operated a boat before so they don't have the slightest clue what they're doing," said Sgt. Larry Whitford, supervisor of the Broward County Sheriff's Office marine unit.
      "Why should they? After all, anybody who has the money and time can literally hop in one of these Cigarette boats, take it out on the water and open it up to 80 miles per hour," Whitford said.
      The Sheriff's Office has just seven people assigned to patrol its sections of the Intracoastal, Whitford said. Other agencies, including police departments in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Pompano Beach have no more than a dozen people working day shifts.
      The situation is the same in Palm Beach and Dade counties. In some areas, like Delray Beach, residents have taken to forming their own patrols to nab speeding boaters. But the patrols are sporadic and mainly confined to weekend afternoons.
      Added Broward Sheriff's Sgt. Whitford: "Any experienced boater in this area knows that after 11 p.m., there's not any enforcement on the Intracoastal."
      Earlier this year, homeowners living in the Sunrise Intracoastal neighborhood and other sections of the waterway petitioned the city of Fort Lauderdale to establish a no-wake, idle-speed zone to the Middle River and the waterway south of the Sunrise Boulevard bridge.
      Restrictions were strengthened along the Middle River -- but Fort Lauderdale officials say they don't have jurisdiction along the state-controlled Intracoastal.
      And earlier this month, residents sent another package of petitions to the city, titled "An Accident Waiting to Happen," said Trey Urbahn, who lives near the scene of Monday's accident. He helped pull one of the survivors out of the water.
      "It was very predictable," Urbahn said. "The waterway here is so narrow, there's so much traffic, and particularly at night when you can't see ... it's very, very dangerous."
      Part of the problem, Urbahn and other residents say, are the seemingly haphazard speed limits posted along the waterway. Some have proposed making all of Broward's section of the waterway a no-wake zone, but with little success.
      But those who oppose new laws point out that there have only been a few accidents even approaching the scale of Monday's carnage.
      Former Fort Lauderdale mayor and marina owner Robert O. Cox says he's against any quick-fix regulations.
      "All the years I've spent at city hall, something may happen and you hear people say, `There ought to be a law,' " he said. "You can't just start whooping and hollering and changing the laws that have been well thought out just because of one accident. One accident tells you nothing."
      Yet Monday's victims weren't the first fatalities on the waterway this year.
      In April, two German tourists were killed and a woman from Ohio was injured when a rented 25-foot Bayliner slammed into a barge. There were no charges filed in that accident, and authorities said that drugs and alcohol were not a factor.
      Waterway resident Christine Teel fears that Monday's accident will be blamed on alcohol, rather than attitudes -- and be quickly forgotten.
      "That's what you're going to hear a lot of, if it turns out someone was drinking," said Teel, a member of the city's Marine Advisory Board, which recommends changes in local marine restrictions.
      Alcohol's effects are worse on the water. A common rule of thumb is that someone steering a boat with an alcohol level of .10 is like a highway driver with a level of .30 -- more than three times the legal limit.
      "Think about it -- you're on water, you're dealing with wind, waves, no lanes and really nothing to guide you except the shore," said Palfrey of the state Marine Patrol.
      And pulling over those swerving boaters usually takes an officer off the Intracoastal for the rest of the night. That's because he has to take the offender to a local police station to administer a blood alcohol test and book him at a local jail for public intoxication.
      Only to perhaps run into him on his boat the very next night.
      "It's part of Florida -- drinking on the boats," Palfrey said. "There's nothing illegal about it. You'll see them out there all the time, laughing and talking and drinking right in front of marine patrol officers."
      Staff Writers Kathy Bushouse, Sarah Lundy and Douglas C. Lyons contributed to this report.

6 Die in Intracoastal Boating Accident

WFOR Channel 4
26 November 1997
( Fort Lauderdale ) Police are investigating the possibility liquor may be involved in an overnight boating tragedy which took the lives of six people.

The dead were all aboard the Cabin Cruiser Bill-It, owned by Fort Lauderdale paving contractor Jay Colonna, who was cruising on the Intracoastal with friends in town for a convention. Shortly before midnight, a speedboat piloted with two men aboard apparently sliced through the cruiser, and then slammed into a dock. Residents who heard the noise called for emergency crews, but only the two man aboard the speedboat, named Merry Maker, survived the accident. They were hospitalized in critical condition.

Three bodies were recovered almost immediately from the area where the accident happened, after the Bill-It sank. Divers recovered the other three victims Tuesday morning, trapped inside.

A vodka bottle was found aboard the speedboat, leading police to investigate the possible involvement of Alcohol

Boat crash in Intracoastal kills six, injures two

WTVJ Channel 6
26 November 1997
    Wednesday, November 26 - A grinding crash on the Intracoastal Waterway cut a boat in two, killing six people on the cabin cruiser dead.
    The 31-foot that had sunk was recovered Tuesday morning, put on a barge and taken away. The three bodies that were trapped inside were also recovered. Two people are in the hospital and just before Thanksgiving, six families are grieving a terrible loss.
    It all happened in a split second at about midnight Monday near the Sunrise Boulevard bridge in Fort Lauderdale.
    “We heard a very loud crash. We knew immediately something had happened in the Intracoastal and we went outside and it was sort of eerie because there was really nothing there,” said witness Trey Urbahn. There was nothing there, police say, because the impact of a 45-foot “cigarette boat” hitting a smaller fishing boat was enough for the smaller one to disintegrate.
    “And I’d say within a minute, all the big pieces had sunk and you had floating cushions and those kinds of things,” Urbahn said.
    This morning, police divers pulled three bodies from the underwater wreckage, three others were recovered immediately after the crash. No one on board the 31-foot cabin cruiser “Bill It” survived. Sea tow owner Timothy Morgan spotted one of the victims floating face down.
    “We were hoping that it was a survivor and as I pulled up I could see this gentleman had been decapitated,” said Timothy Morgan.
    Divers plucked the dead from 25-foot waters– the owner of the cabin cruiser, Jay Colonna of Delray Beach, his cousin, John Colonna, and four men who were attending a Fort Lauderdale convention for a Delaware-based truck leasing company, Rollins Truck Leasing.
    Trey Urbahn says he helped pull one of the two survivors from the speedboat, 44-year-old Deborah Kenner, out of the water.
    “My wife heard a woman calling for help...,” he said. “She was in shock and I think she was fairly seriously injured on her shoulder.”
    Police say the speedboat’s owner, 56-year-old Stanley Cameron of Fort Lauderdale, was driving the “Merrymaker” too fast.
    “The speed limit is 25 miles per hour in that section of the waterway and it appears as if this boat may have been exceeding that speed limit. It may have come up on the cabin cruiser very quickly and then rammed right over it,” said Jim Leljedal of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
    “This is not the first time I’ve fished people out of the Intracoastal,” said Urbahn, “it’s the first time we’ve had deaths involved.”
    Family members now surround the survivors. Keener, from Texas, was thrown from the boat. She has broken ribs and internal injuries but has been upgraded to serious condition. Cameron has severe head injuries and swelling but is conscious. The developer remains in critical condition.
    “Mr. Cameron suffered a closed-head injury– that’s worse than a concussion. That means that there is swelling and he is in critical condition and the next 24 hours are crucial for him,” said Chuck Malkus of the Broward General Medical Center.
    Police now want to know if alcohol or drugs were involved. Police say they did find beer bottles in the water and on one of the boats but they do not know if that played a role in the accident.

Speedboat operator had history of speeding tickets

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
26 November 1997
By Jose Lambiet Staff Writer
Stanley Cameron liked his numerous toys to be fast, and he liked to test them.
      Court records show the successful 56-year-old developer was cited five times for speeding, including once on water, in Broward County over the past three years.
      Now police are investigating whether he was speeding again late Monday, when his three-engine cigarette boat Merrymaker slammed into a cabin cruiser on the Intracoastal Waterway. The accident -- witnesses equated the noise to a sonic boom -- killed the cruiser's six occupants.
      The crash also critically injured Cameron and his passenger, Deborah Keener, 44, his on-and-off girlfriend of nine years. Both are still being treated at Broward General Hospital.
      While Cameron remains in critical condition with head injuries, Keener, of Houston, was up and walking Wednesday. She was briefly questioned by police.
      Cameron, who once flew his own Learjet, was at the helm of the Merrymaker in the afternoon of April 16, 1995, when he was stopped by a marine patrol officer from the Pompano Beach Police.
      According to a copy of the ticket, the Merrymaker was gliding along the Intracoastal just five miles north of Monday's tragedy at "an excessive speed in a 25 mph zone." Cameron pleaded guilty and paid an undetermined fine.
      Broward Sheriff's investigators said Wednesday they didn't know about the ticket. And neither did some in Cameron's family.
      "I'm really surprised to hear this," said Calene Cameron, 49. For 14 years, she was the second wife of the thrice-married Stanley Cameron. She is the mother of three of his six children. "He's never had an accident whether on the road or on the water or piloting his plane. He likes mechanical things, nice vehicles of all sorts, but he was always careful using them. Even in his Learjet, I used to feel totally secure."
      Cameron's driving record is even spottier. He pleaded not-guilty in another speeding incident in just a week before the tragedy. A trial date hasn't been set.
      The case stems from Oct. 8 when he was cited by a Fort Lauderdale Police officer for driving his black Chevrolet Suburban 12 miles above the speed limit in a 30 mph zone on Bayview Drive, Coral Ridge.
      The other three speeding tickets:
      -- Jan. 10, 1995: Cited for driving his brand-new Cadillac at 82 mph in a 45 mph work zone on I-95, just north of Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. He pleaded not guilty, and later pleaded no contest. A hearing officer withheld any finding of guilt and fined Cameron $125.
      -- July 21, 1995: Clocked at 50 mph in a 35 mph area in Coral Springs. He pleaded not guilty, and again later, no contest. Adjudication was also withheld. He paid a $70 fine.
      -- Sept. 16, 1996: Coral Springs Police clock his Suburban at 59 mph in a 35 mph zone on West Sample Road. Again, he pleaded not guilty, then no contest, and adjudication was again withheld. He paid for court costs totalling $40.
      "What does all this have to do with a boat accident?" said the lawyer who defended Cameron in most of these cases, Mitchell Polay. "They're just traffic tickets. Leave him alone. Mr. Cameron is a nice guy."
      Cameron's family has declined to be interviewed.
      Family members of the cabin cruiser's victims said the conventioneers, in town for some fun and relaxation, had hired a boat captain to maneuver the the cruiser while they celebrated.
      Detectives confirmed Wednesday that Simon Prankerd, 32, of Lighthouse Point, the captain, called his fiancee at 10 p.m. from Houston's restaurant at Atlantic Boulevard and the Intracoastal. At 11:15 p.m., just south of the Sunrise Boulevard bridge, the Bill It was struck starboard by the northbound 45-foot Merrymaker.
      Three people on the cabin cruiser were ejected and drowned while three others went down with the boat. Keener was rescued in the water and police found Cameron wedged under a seat.
      Homicide and marine safety police interviewed friends and family of victims as well as potential witnesses. But so far, they have found no eyewitness to the collision, said Sgt. Larry Whitford of the Broward Sheriff's Office marine unit. They're mostly relying on physical evidence.
      "There are so many factors that have to be put together. It's like a puzzle," Whitford said.
      One factor, authorities say, is that Cameron may have been sailing faster than the posted 25 mph speed limit in that area.
      Another may be alcohol. An empty alcohol bottle was found in Cameron's boat and others were found around the accident site. Homicide detectives are waiting for the results of blood samples taken from Cameron and other victims. It could be weeks before those results are known.
      Calene Cameron, who remains close with her ex-husband, said he was an experiened boater who even tested area dealers' speedboats with potential buyers.She said her ex-husband was not the reckless sort.
      "I was told they had gone out to dinner before the accident," she said, "and I was told they weren't drunk. I feel real bad for the families of the victims."
      A detective briefly interviewed Keener at her hospital room on Wednesday. She confirmed she and Cameron were the only people aboard the cigarette boat and Cameron was piloting, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal. He would not discuss whether Keener mentioned alcohol or speed prior to the crash.
      Staff Writer Donna Pazdera and researchers Barbara Hijek and Magaly Morales contributed to this report

Fire chief to examine response time at Monday's boat collision

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
27 November 1997
By Janet H. Cho Staff Writer
      Fort Lauderdale Fire Chief Otis Latin has asked for the 911 transcripts and audiotapes from Monday's fatal boat collision, after criticism from the firefighters' union that rescue boats weren't dispatched quickly enough.
      Though Fire Station 13 is "within shouting distance" of the crash site, it took eight minutes from the time 911 was notified to when the first rescue teams arrived, Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue spokesman Stephen McInerny said.
      The station is a few hundred yards from the crash site.
      The first 911 call came at 11:21 p.m. The first units were dispatched about four minutes later. The first units arrived at 11:29 p.m., McInerny said.
      "We're not sure (what caused the delay), and that's what we're investigating," he said.
      Lt. Jeff Justinak, a Fort Lauderdale firefighter and president of the Professional Firefighters union, blames the delay on a time-consuming dispatch procedure.
      "We're only as good as the communication, service and equipment they provide to us," he said.
      Six people were killed and two seriously injured when a speedboat slammed into a cabin cruiser on the Intracoastal Waterway late Monday night.
      The speedboat's pilot, Stanley Cameron, 56, remains in critical condition with head injuries at Broward General Medical Center. His passenger, Deborah Keener, 44, is listed in serious condition.
      Justinak said the delay is caused by calls being routed through Broward County Fire-Rescue dispatchers instead of staying within Fort Lauderdale's Communications Center.
      McInerny said 911 calls must go through two separate dispatch systems. Emergency calls received in Fort Lauderdale's are forward to Broward County dispatchers, who then send out the city's rescue units. Previously, it was handled by the city's dispatchers.
      That system was scrapped "as a cost-cutting move" McInerny said.
      No one knows if a faster response would have helped those who drowned inside the cabin cruiser.
      Justinak said every minute counts.
      "Would you rather be in a hull, with water submerging, for three to four minutes, or would you rather be in a hull for eight minutes?"
      Broward County Fire-Rescue also looked into the response time to the crash, but came to a different conclusion.
      "The conclusion was that we were not given the call right away from Fort Lauderdale," said Gene Herrera, spokesman for Broward County Fire-Rescue.
      "It went to the (Fort Lauderdale) Police Department first, and they held it. We got the call at at 11:24 p.m., and we dispatched at 11:25 p.m. It wasn't our dispatch system, it was theirs."

Waterfront residents renew plea for crackdown on speeding boaters

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
1 December 1997
By Robein Benedick Stafff Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE -- The deafening crash told Jenny Urbahn her worst fears had been realized.
      Even though it was dark when she and husband, Trey, dashed into their backyard on the Intracoastal Waterway, they saw pieces of the wreckage floating in the water. Jenny Urbahn called out to see if anyone was there, and a woman clinging to her neighbor's seawall answered, "Here, here." Her husband lifted the woman to shore.
      The Urbahns and other residents had sent petitions to city officials over the past year, begging them to slow boats on the waterway. Their last missive was entitled, "An Accident Waiting to Happen."
      "I think six bodies is a pretty good case for lowering the speed limit," Jenny Urbahn said.
      Bolstered by last week's fatal boat collision, some waterfront residents are renewing their pleas for a crackdown on speeding boaters on the Intracoastal, just south of the Sunrise Boulevard bridge, where the crash occurred. This time they're getting support from elected officials and others.
      Six people were killed and two seriously injured about 11:15 p.m. Nov. 24 when a speedboat slammed into a cabin cruiser.
      Developer Stanley Cameron, who was piloting the speedboat, was in serious but stable condition Monday at Broward General Medical Center. His passenger, Deborah Keener, was moved out of the hospital's intensive care unit in fair condition.
      Speed and alcohol are thought to have contributed to the crash, which is under investigation by the Broward Sheriff's Office.
      Commissioner John Aurelius will ask commissioners this morning to consider paying for city patrols on the Intracoastal because he said the Florida Marine Patrol has too few officers to do the job. That leaves the waterway virtually unpatrolled at night.
      State Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pembroke Pines, said Monday he may propose a bill to beef up state patrols on the Intracoastal and to require boaters to be licensed.
      The accident has reopened a long-simmering debate over safety on a waterway that teems with boats most weekends. The same debate is raging in Pompano Beach and other east Broward waterfront communities.
      On one side are property owners whose yards back up to the waterway. They constantly complain about speeding boats, noise, a lack of police enforcement of boating rules and damage to docks and seawalls from surging waves.
      On the other side are boating enthusiasts and marina owners who say the waterways are safe. They believe stricter boating laws aren't the answer. They favor more officers patroling the waterways and more boating education courses.
      "If they lowered the speed limit by one mile per hour every time there was a bad accident on Interstate 95, what good would that do?" asked Bob Bekoff, the Water Taxi president and a member of the city's Marine Advisory Board.
      The board is scheduled to discuss lower speeds on the Intracoastal south of the Sunrise Boulevard bridge at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 100 N. Andrews Ave. Its recommendation will go to city commissioners Dec. 16.
      Last month, commissioners strengthened restrictions on the Middle River, but didn't bring up the Intracoastal, which is controlled by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
      Commissioners can pass a resolution asking for slower speeds on the Intracoastal, which would trigger a lengthy review process and public hearings. The state last lowered the Intracoastal's speed limit a few years ago for manatee protection.
      Florida Marine Patrol Capt. Sam Cory, whose office covers Broward and Dade counties, said a slow-speed, minimum-wake zone may make sense on the narrow, curvy stretch between Las Olas and Sunrise boulevards.
      But some residents want to go even further.
      Christine Teel, a waterway resident who also serves on the city's Marine Advisory Board, believes the whole Intracoastal should have slower speeds as it winds through the city.
      "There is no place in Fort Laudedale anymore for high-speed boating," she said. "If we don't do the entire waterway, we'll continue compressing these fast boats into smaller and smaller areas."
      Proposals being floated would make the Intracostal between both bridges a slow-speed, minimum-wake zone or an idle-speed, no-wake zone.
      Much of the Intracoastal is 25 mph, except from Nov. 15 to March 15, when slower speeds are required on weekends from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for manatee protection.
      Some boaters believe that no matter how many safety measures are passed, there always will be violators. They believe boater education, not more regulation, is the answer.
      "Clearly, somebody was exceedingly careless in this accident," said Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. "But an eight-hour boating course would have been a bigger help here than slow speed zones."
      ---- Staff Writer Donna Pazdera contributed to this report

Speedboat driver charged in crash that killed 6

December 5, 1997
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) -- A millionaire developer was charged Friday with drunken-driving manslaughter for an accident in which his speedboat plowed into a smaller cabin cruiser, killing all six people aboard.

Stanley Cameron, who suffered head injuries in the November 24 crash, was placed under guard at a rehabilitation center when a total of 22 criminal charges were filed against him. Prosecutors said he could get nearly 70 years in prison if convicted.

Cameron's lawyer, Roy Black, said his client was not yet well enough to discuss the nighttime collision.

Broward County sheriff's investigators said the 56-year-old Cameron was drunk and speeding down the Intracoastal Waterway when his 45-foot cigarette boat slammed into the slower, 31-foot cruiser. Cameron's blood-alcohol level was not disclosed.

The accident scattered bodies and wreckage for hundreds of yards, killing all aboard the cabin cruiser. The collision was one of the deadliest boating accidents in Florida, which leads the nation in recreational boating deaths.

Copyright 1997   The Associated Press

Family, friends say 'G' day mate

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
6 December 1997
By Tessie Borden, Miami Bureau
LIGHTHOUSE POINT -- Simon Prankerd's epitaph reads N 26(DEG) 14.272', W 079(DEG) 57.808'.

Photo Description:
Family and friends of Simon Prankerd, including his dog Peachy, say goodbye after dropping his casket at sea. The British captain was killed in a boat accident two weeks ago. His family considered burying him back home, but ``When we saw all the love for him, we decided to keep him here,'' his brother Tim said.


      Those coordinates were not engraved upon a headstone but on the hearts of Prankerd's family and friends as they buried him at sea Saturday afternoon.
      "I'm marking it on the compass so when I go fishing next time I can always include him," said Harry Layer, a friend who often sailed with Prankerd. "That'll be called Simon."
      Prankerd, 32, the English boat captain who was killed along with five other people in a boat crash on the Intracoastal Waterway two weeks ago, was laid to rest about six miles out to sea in a concrete-lined casket.
      Seven boats carrying friends and colleagues gathered around the Black Gold, the boat once captained by Prankerd. As a minister prayed over the flower-laden coffin, friends and colleagues hoisted it over the gunwale and into the water.
      It sank in seconds.
      "Goodbye, Simon," the boaters said, almost under their breaths. "G'day, mate."
      A ceremony took place earlier at the First Presbyterian Church in Pompano Beach. A reception followed at the Lighthouse Point Yacht Club, where friends talked about a man who was always in good spirits, loved a good practical joke and spoke a little too loudly.
      "He always used to talk really loud," said Jack Brunns, who worked with Simon on the Black Gold. "I'd tell him, `Hey, Simon, I'm right here.' And he'd say, `No problem, mate. I've been like this since I was a kid.'"
      Brunns remembered the time Prankerd, who once owned a boat called the Prankster, surreptitiously attached a 5-gallon bucket to a friend's fishing line and threw it over the edge, then watched him fight the "fish."
      Then there were the times when Prankerd would take off for the West Coast, looking for a little sailboat to buy. His dream was to live in the boat and sail wherever his fancy took him. There was only one problem."He'd bring back pictures of these boats that had no mast," Brunns said, smiling. "He'd say, `Hey, mate, it's only $40,000!'"
      As the afternoon wore on, conversations eventually trailed off, and everyone knew there was one more thing to do. They knew where Prankerd would most have wanted to be: in the water.
      So they took him there. Even the weather cooperated, with a cloudless bright blue sky and a steady breeze that whipped the ocean waves into 6-foot swells.
      "It's looking like a corncob out there," Layer said, looking at a horizon made crinkly by the big waves. "It's a crackin' fine day, as Simon would say. He wouldn't have it any other way." Prankerd's brother, Tim Prankerd, told a friend that the family initially thought about taking his brother back home. But something changed their minds.
      "When we saw all the love for him, we decided to keep him here," he said.

May 2000 Update

On 18 May 2000 we received an update on the situation from the Florida Dept of Corrections.

In reference to the tragic DUI speedboat event in Broward county a few years
back where Stanley Cameron was responsible,

You may want to post a follow-up.
Stanley Cameron was convicted of six counts DUI Manslaughter and one count
DUI with Serious Bodily Injury and is now serving a 85 year sentence with
the Florida Department of Corrections.  Inmate Cameron is presently housed
at Calhoun Correctional Institution on the Florida panhandle.
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