Sea World Boating Accident Coverage 20 August 1996
This is an CNN News Report from their website
State investigators on Sunday blamed the accident on a mechanical failure. They declined to elaborate.
Videotape of Saturday's show showed the operator turning the steering wheel away from the crowd. The 18-foot boat failed to cooperate, however, and instead hit a guard rail, became airborne and crashed five rows deep into the grandstand at Sea World of Ohio.
"It looked to me like someone lost control even though at first I thought it was a stunt," said Don Glassmire, 44, of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, one of 4,000 spectators watching the show on Geauga Lake.
The boat's driver passed drug and alcohol tests ordered by police after the accident, said Stephen D. LeResche, vice president of public communications for Sea World's parent, Anheuser-Busch Inc. of St. Louis.
Four people remained hospitalized Monday, one in critical condition. The others had been released after treatment for cuts and bruises.
The Busch Entertainment Corporation, a division of Anheuser-Busch, the nation's second-largest theme park operator, runs Sea World parks in Aurora -- 22 miles southeast of Cleveland -- San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando, Florida.
Sea World spokesman Fred Jacobs said ski shows were canceled Sunday at the four parks. Other attractions remained open.
In the 35-minute Baywatch water ski show, an actor who appears to be operating the boat leaps from it to perform a rescue. The boat -- actually piloted by a driver hidden from view -- is supposed to veer toward the stands and splash the crowd before speeding out into the lake.
Instead, the boat hit the guardrail in front of the grandstand.
"When it landed, my only thought was that the thing is on top of people and that we need to do something," said John Clark, who was sitting about 12 feet from where the boat slammed into the bleachers.
He joined about 15 people, including actors from the show, who rushed to lift the 18-foot inboard motorboat off the trapped people.
It was the first major accident at the park in 27 years, and the first in 20 years of water ski shows, said Ted Molter, another Sea World spokesman.
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