Our boating accident attorneys are saddened to hear of a disturbing incident that occurred near Palos Hills, Illinois on Friday night. As of today, three people are believed to be missing and two were killed after their boat capsized in the Cal-Sag Channel.
According to Coast Guard reports, the 19-foot vessel collided with a 66-foot commercial towing barge at around 11 pm Friday night. Someone near the accident scene reportedly heard a loud noise and alerted police, and authorities rushed to the scene to determine what happened. Though investigators found the wreckage, none of the victims were seen initially.
Police report there were at least three people on the pleasure craft, but believed there may have been two others onboard. The search was conducted for five people.
Using sonar equipment, Coast Guard officers scoured the waters for the victims. The bodies of a man and woman were found inside the vessel. The victims were identified as Jeremy Muzika and Viengsavanh Bielarz . Police noted the victims were not wearing life jackets, which in our professional opinion, was a huge mistake. We’ve noted in the past how critical wearing a life jacket can be in the event of an accident. Say a crash does occur and victims are thrown into the water and become unconscious. The only thing that will keep victims afloat is the life jacket. Unfortunately, not every state mandates the use of life jackets while boating, and even for those that do, boaters may still ignore the importance of wearing them.
The search operation continued through Saturday, but inclement weather prevented air responders from assisting with the rescue mission. As of Saturday afternoon, the Coast Guard suspended their search, but offered their support to local authorities as their search remained active.
As of right now, we do not have confirmation as to what caused the boating accident, but officials continue to search for answers. Sergeant Jeff Crowley, of the Palos Hills Police Department, explains the area is a common route for barges, which means that unless the victims were not local, they would have had a general idea that they might come in close contact with a larger vessel.
Officers also questioned why the boaters were out at night, as it is uncommon for boaters in the area to be out in the water so late. A few theories have been posed as to the nature of the accident. There had been some murky weather the whole week, which made the area foggy and difficult to navigate. Bad weather has been known to cause several boating accidents, but given the fact that the boaters were out so late at night, and the crash was so severe that the vessel capsized, could one of the operators have committed some sort of negligent act while in the open waters?
If negligence was a factor in the incident, surviving victims and loved ones of the deceased have the right to consult with a boating accident attorney to determine whether they may be eligible to file a lawsuit and recover compensation for their injuries or losses. Far too many boat and watercraft accidents are the direct result of an operator failing to abide by proper maritime safety laws.
Check out the second installment of our blog for our thoughts on possible factors contributing to the crash.