Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Boating Accident Coverage

24 November 1997 Accident


The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel published a series of biographies on 25 November of those involved in the accident. The Sun-Sentinel has provided excellent coverage of the crash and we encourage you to read their paper or visit their web site.

The biographies are reproduced below.

Fatal cruise job was boat captain's extra money for home

By Larry Lebowitz Staff Writer
Simon Prankerd was an open-seas kind of a guy. He hated serving as captain for party-boat charters on the crowded, frantic Intracoastal Waterway.
But Mr. Prankerd, who normally was captain of the 60-foot oceangoing fishing charter Black Gold, thought he could use the extra money to fix up the new house he had just bought for the two women in his life: fiancee Maria Williams-Sahli and her daughter, Alessia, 7.
      So he agreed to operate James "Jay" Colonna's 31-foot cabin cruiser Bill It on Monday night on the recommendation of a friend from the Lighthouse Point Yacht Club marina.
      Mr. Prankerd, who had children of his own, wanted the home to be ready in time to celebrate Christmas with his new family, who gave up everything in Zurich, Switzerland, and moved to Florida three months ago.
      "This was only the third time since I met him that he went out on one of these (jobs)," said Williams-Sahli, a fashion designer. "He didn't like to do these parties. He didn't like the Intracoastal.
      "He loved the waves, the open sea. His dream was to live on a sailboat and sail around the world. But he bought a house for us ...
      "Now what are we going to do? What am I going to tell my daughter? Alessia called him Daddy. She loved Simon."
      Simon John Prankerd was born on Aug. 30, 1965, in Cornwall, England. He was a natural sailor from an early age.
      When he was 12, his father pulled him and two siblings out of school and they sailed around the Atlantic Ocean for more than two years.
      Mr. Prankerd, a gregarious, outgoing man with a model's good looks, moved to Florida 12 years ago and caught on as a crewman on a fishing boat as well as yacht charters. He became a naturalized American citizen last year, while retaining his British citizenship. He met his fiancee 20 months ago at the yacht club's health spa.
      "Everybody loved Simon. He made friends everywhere he went," said Kelly Koenke, an 18-year friend of Williams-Sahli and a longtime friend of Mr. Prankerd. "Lighthouse Point is a very small place. Everybody knows everybody. Nobody ever had a bad thing to say about him. He was just that kind of guy."
      Mr. Prankerd is survived by his parents, Peter and Pat, of Truro, Cornwall, Great Britain; a brother, Tim, of Cheektowaga, N.Y., and a sister, Elizabeth Louise, of France. Funeral arrangements were incomplete on Tuesday night.

Mason built construction businesses, better life

By Sarah Lundy Staff Writer
James "Jay" Colonna began his career as a mason, lifting heavy blocks and bricks to build things.
      By the sweat of his labor, he built a life -- and two businesses, Colonna Construction and Colonna Asphalt Restoration, based in Fort Lauderdale.
      A little more than a year ago, he bought a 31-foot Tiara cabin cruiser in hopes of entertaining clients out on the Atlantic Ocean, friends said.
      Mr. Colonna, 37, was helping a visiting cousin, John Colonna, do just that when he died on Monday.
      James Colonna leaves his wife, Linda, and his two children, Jason, 8, and Nicole, 3. He also is survived by his mother, Esther Colonna, his sister, T-Ann Colonna, and brother, Rich Colonna.
      "He will be fondly remembered by all of those he touched so deeply and loved very much," his family said in a statement released by their lawyer, Richard Capalbo of Fort Lauderdale.
      Mr. Colonna was born in Pittsburgh on July 2, 1960. He lived in the Fort Lauderdale area during his teen-age years, and graduated from Plantation High School.
      Four years ago, he settled in Delray Beach, where he built his two-story gray home in the Delray Lakes Estates neighborhood, said Edward Colina Jr., a neighbor.
      When there was only a threat of a hurricane, neighbors would watch Mr. Colonna lug heavy boards up a ladder to shield the windows of his house.
      "He wanted his family to be safe," said his neighbor, Lisa Kateb. "I can't believe he's gone."
      That concern stretched beyond his family. Less than two weeks ago, Colonna Construction sponsored a golf tournament for Kids In Distress at the Inverrary country club in Lauderhill, said Leslie Gott, club tournament director.
      "He's a guy with a big heart," said Gary Terwilliger, another neighbor.
      Funeral arrangements will be made today.
      Staff Writer Donna Pazdera contributed to this report.

New Jersey cousin close to family in Florida

By Sarah Lundy
John Colonna knew South Florida well.
      Several years ago, he flew to West Palm Beach almost every other weekend to care for his father, Richard, who had lung cancer.
      Those frequent visits ended after Richard Colonna's death several years ago.
      He remained close to his cousin, Jay Colonna. John Colonna had often stayed with his cousin when caring for his father in Jupiter.
      John Colonna, 38, and his cousin were among six people who died in a boating accident on Monday.
      "He was a good boy," said John Colonna's aunt, Esther Colonna of Delray Beach.
      John Colonna was a national account manager in Navistar International's Pensauken, N.J., office. He had been with the company since November 1985. He had traveled to South Florida this time to a convention as a reward for good work performance.
      He is survived by his wife, Linda; his brother, Scott Colonna, his sister, Amy Colonna, and mother, Connie Colonna.

Sales manager close to retirement lived active life

By Donna Pazdera Staff Writer
Although Roger Wypyszynski was nearing retirement, he navigated his career like a man half his age.
      Ten years ago, Mr. Wypyszynski, 60, moved from his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., to take a job in Dallas. Within the past year, he moved again -- to Bausman, Pa., to become the national account sales manager for Meritour Auto, a subsidiary of Rockwell International.
      "He didn't want to retire," said his son, Gerard Wypyszynski, 36.
      It was his involvement with Meritour that led Mr. Wypyszynski to the Rollins Leasing Co.'s annual achievers' meeting in Fort Lauderdale. Mr. Wypyszynski sold truck parts to Navistar, a company that did business with Rollins, Gerard Wypyszynski said.
      On Monday night, Mr. Wypysznski joined a colleague, John Colonna, who worked for Navistar, aboard Colonna's cousin's 31-foot cabin cruiser.
      Mr. Wypyszynski's wife of 42 years, Lilly Mae Wypyszynski, was staying at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, their son said. She was waiting for her husband to return when the accident happened.
      "He was a great father," the victim's son said.
      Mr. Wypyszynski enjoyed his family, work and traveling with his wife.
      In 1959, Mr. Wypyszynski was a defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers during training camp, but was cut by legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Gerard Wypyszynski said.
      In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Wypyszynski is survived by two other sons and a daughter as well as his father, Jerome Wypyszynski.

Delaware businessman was family man who loved the water

By Robert Nolin Staff Writer
When the end came, so quickly and unexpectedly, Joseph Mongelluzzo was where he lived life to the fullest -- on the water.
      "He loved boats," said Mr. Mongelluzzo's brother-in-law, Tom Bowen. "The irony is he died doing what he loved the best."
      Mr. Mongelluzzo, 48, of Wilmington, Del., was remembered by family as an active, outgoing, self-made man whose pleasures were profoundly simple, yet richly savored.
      The manufacturing representative for Navistar Co., the firm that builds International Harvester trucks and machinery, had recently sold a 20-foot motorboat and replaced it with a 27-footer. He and his wife, Judith, 47, spent every weekend they could aboard the vessel, fishing or cruising.
      He had just stored the boat for the winter, and was looking forward to a possible South Florida boating trip when he left on Friday for a Fort Lauderdale sales convention.
      Mr. Mongelluzzo was born in Aldan, a Philadelphia suburb. In his late teens he spent two years in the Army as a mechanic stationed in Germany. Upon his return, he found work as an apprentice truck mechanic with Navistar.
      He stayed with the company for 30 years, working his way up the ranks and eventually earning promotion to the firm's Wilmington office.
      Mr. Mongelluzzo, a Catholic, lived his faith every day, not just on Sundays, Bowen said.
      "He was a very outgoing, helping individual," Bowen said. "He was the kind of guy you wanted to live next door to."
      Mr. Mongelluzzo enjoyed golf and bowling. "He bowled a 300-point game once," Bowen said. He always made time to attend his two sons' high school football games.
      Working with his hands, for himself, family, or neighbors brought great satisfaction, his brother-in-law said. He renovated two homes, turned a pickup truck into a dump truck and built a trailer to haul firewood.
      "He used every minute of every day," Bowen said. "He probably did more in his 48 years than most people do in two lifetimes."
      Besides his wife, Mr. Mongelluzzo's survivors include two sons, Joseph, 21, and Andrew, 19, both college students who live in Wilmington; a brother, Louis, of Pennsylvania; and his parents, Joseph and Lillian of Aldan.
      Funeral arrangements are pending.

Chicago businessman came to Florida for convention

By Jose Lambiet
      Donald Draper, 50, of Chicago, was a Navistar International employee who was in Fort Lauderdale to attend the Rollins convention at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort. Navistar, formerly International Harvester, did business with Rollins, a trucking company.
      Mr. Draper was vice president of leasing at the company's world headquarters in Chicago. He had previously worked for International Harvester in the 1970s.
      For several years, he worked in the commercial truck division of Ford Motor Co. before returning to Navistar last year, said Navistar spokeswoman Rebecca Hayne.
      Mr. Draper and his wife, Marilyn, moved several times over the past decade, including to Georgia and Michigan.

Speedboat owner known for local development

By Ardy Friedberg and Patricia Horn  Staff Writers
Stanley Cameron, a gregarious Texas developer, had worked hard to sell the $44 million BridgeSide Square apartment and retail project on the Intracoastal Waterway. He seemed on the verge of success.
      Last month, he won the approval of the city's planning and zoning board for the 15-story, 246-apartment and retail complex. On Dec. 9, the project was scheduled for final review by the City Commission, with groundbreaking not far behind.
      Monday, he worked on his Sonic speedboat Merrymaker, docked on the Intracoastal Waterway outside his condomimium. Then Cameron, 56, met with city officials to discuss new projects.
      Later, he joined his friend, Deborah Keener, for a night ride on the Intracoastal. That ride ended in a collision that killed all six people aboard another vessel. Both Cameron and Keener were gravely hurt.
      Late Tuesday, Cameron was in critical condition with head injuries, a hospital spokesman said.
      "I just saw him yesterday and noticed the new boat at his slip for the first time," said Cheryl Fuchs, manager of Lauderdale Towers, the condominium at 2900 NE 30th Street in Fort Lauderdale where Cameron lived in a penthouse since 1993.
      "This is so weird. He was a great guy," Fuchs said. "Everybody that knew him here just thought the world of him."
      Fuchs said she had seen a mechanic working with Cameron on Merrymaker on Monday.
      "He had another cigarette boat before that one," she said. "He was the kind of guy who liked to run his own boat."
      While Cameron had his hand in other development projects, he is best known in South Florida for his work on the BridgeSide Square, complex just south of the Oakland Park Boulevard just east of State Road A1A.
      Cameron served as the coordinator on the controversial project for Sapphire Properties of Dallas and South Florida. He met with city planners, commissioners and community groups to guide the project through development.
      Vice Mayor Tim Smith said Cameron was important to BridgeSide partly because he lived close to where the project would be built -- and would live with the consequences of increased traffic and growth.
      "He was on the firing line for all the condominium and neighborhood associations. He went to all of them and he listened to them for months," said Smith, who met with Cameron Monday on a seprate project. "He wasn't fazed by people being angry at him.
      "He was the kind of guy who lived life pretty full. Whenever I saw him, he didn't strike me as a guy who let life pass him by,"
      Cameron, who owns a 1993 Harley-Davidson motorcycle as well as the boat, has been married at least three times, records show. A Houston friend said he had four sons and a daughter with his first wife, Calene Green. He is currently separated from Laura Catherine Verdi, 33, records show.
      Verdi arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday from Maryland to be at his side, her mother said.
      "Everyone is shocked and concerned," said Dennis Mele, an attorney with the law firm Ruden McCloskey in Fort Lauderdale. Mele worked with Cameron and Sapphire on the project and others. "BridgeSide will go forward," he said.
      Sapphire, a Dallas company, has also developed Pembroke Crossing Shopping Center in Pembroke Pines and Plantation Crossing Shopping center on Sunrise Blvd. near Sawgrass Mills. Cameron also worked as a consultant with TransEastern Properties on two projects, including The Pinehurst Club in Hollywood.
      "Stan had 25 years experience developing apartments," said Art Falcone, president of TransEastern, which develops projects and single-family homes around the state. "He's been in real estate pretty much his whole life."
      Eliot Barnett, a principal with Sapphire, said he had developed 10,000 to 15,000 apartments in the Houston area. Cameron is listed as a corporate officer in 24 Texas and Lousiana companies, most now inactive.
      Staff Writer Doreen Hemlock contributed to this report.

Speedboat passenger community activist in Houston

By Rafael Lorente Staff Writer
A thousand miles away, Carol Callahan heard the name of her friend Deborah Keener on a Houston, Texas, television station.
      She was relieved to find out her friend was one of two survivors of Monday's accident.
      "I'm just glad she's going to be OK," Callahan said.
      Keener was in stable condition at Broward General Medical Center Tuesday after suffering fractured ribs and other injuries.
      According to neighbor Ray Solcher, Keener had been planning her visit to South Florida for a long time.
      Callahan said Keener had been dating Stanley Cameron, her companion on the speedboat and the other survivor of the accident.
      Callahan has been Keener's real estate broker and friend for more than 10 years. She said Keener, 44, is well known in her community for speaking to school children about the dangers of drug use.
      "She's just an excellent mother, well respected," Callahan said.
      Keener lives in a gated townhouse community on the western side of Houston. Callahan said Keener sold a larger home to move closer to the school her sons Robert, 13, and John, 11, attend.
      Keener, who is divorced, owns a company called Atlas Marketing.
      Callahan said Keener and her two sons are close. The boys went along when Keener searched for a new home, pointing out problems such as old carpeting and sheetrock that needed to be replaced.
      "They're just two sweet boys," Callahan said.
      Callahan said Cameron, the man with Keener on the speedboat, had visited in Houston.
      "He helped us with the garage sale" at the old house, Callahan said.
      Keener's neighbor, Solcher, said he had a glass of wine with her earlier this month where she talked about her upcoming trip to Florida.
      "She's great. A real nice lady. A good mother," Solcher said.
      Steve Brewer of The Houston Chronicle contributed to this report.

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