3 missing in Sea Isla boat crash
Hudson County man dies in 1-car crash on parkway
By DAN P. LEE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
Three area people are missing and presumed dead after their cigarette-style racing boat crested a wave and capsized approximately one mile off the 78th Street beach in Sea Isle City on Monday.
Also on Monday, in nearby Upper Township, one person was killed and four others were injured in a one-car crash near milepost 21 on the Garden State Parkway, bringing the area's Memorial Day death toll presumably to four.
Ricardo Pallarez, 20, of West New York, Hudson County, was pronounced dead at the scene following the 2:32 p.m. accident in the northbound lanes of the parkway. Police said the driver, Nadia S. Borges, 18, of the same town, lost control of the vehicle, swinging it across both lanes of the northbound roadway and sending it flipping onto the forested median.
The identities of the victims of the boating accident were being withheld Monday night, pending notification of their families. Authorities said they had little information about the incident beyond what witnesses, who called 911 at about 3:30 p.m., reported seeing.
One witness - Mike Mackenzie of Washington Township in Gloucester County - said he was sitting on the second-floor porch of a 78th Street beachfront house when he heard a loud noise in the distance. Mackenzie said he looked up to see a speedboat cruising at a high rate of speed across the choppy water.
Mackenzie said the boat, which was heading north, hit a large wave and was sent airborne. The boat flew several yards and turned sideways before striking the water nose-first.
At that point, the boat spun around "like a top, half-in and half-out of the water," Mackenzie said. "Then it began to sink, till all you saw was the bow on top of the water."
The boat was too far out from the shore for Mackenzie to make out any people on board, he said, so he ran inside for a pair of binoculars while another person at the house called authorities. When he returned to the porch and pointed the binoculars toward the scene, Mackenzie saw no movement in the water.
"There was nobody splashing around or anything," he said. "At the speed he was going and the way the boat was spinning around I don't think anybody had much of a chance."
Mackenzie said the entire incident happened within 30 seconds.
A Coast Guard rescue helicopter was on the scene within minutes, accompanied by five boats from the Marine Police and several rescue divers. The Coast Guard also dispensed three rescue boats, along with another helicopter later in the afternoon.
The two helicopters and several boats patrolled the scene through the afternoon and into the night. As of press time, no survivors had been found.
Dozens of vacationers and residents gathered on the beach after hearing the noise of the helicopter. As children played in the sand, a television news reporter delivered a live report a few feet from the surf.
Authorities said Monday night that they were not optimistic about finding survivors.
The ocean water temperature hovered around 60 degrees Monday, and the water was choppy, with waves of two to three feet. Humans can generally survive in 60-degree water for about four to six hours, said Marine Police Trooper Michael Maslowski.
Maslowski said it is not believed the three were wearing lifejackets.
"Obviously, they weren't (wearing lifejackets), because even if they were unconscious, and had been wearing lifejackets, we would have found somebody," he said.
Maslowski identified the boat as a 36-foot Douglas Skater catamaran racing-style boat, and said a Marine Police officer had observed the boat cruising across the water earlier in the day.
"It was pretty noticeable because the boat was traveling at a high rate of speed," he said. "And when they're moving like that, they send off a large plume of water, which is kind of noticeable," he said.
Marine Police recovered the boat later in the afternoon and towed it to a marina in Avalon. Investigators were combing the boat for clues Monday night, Maslowski said.
The Douglas Skater is a high-performance craft capable of speeds of more than 120 miles per hour, according to several boating sites on the World Wide Web. Some models offer engines with power in excess of 1,000 horsepower.
Police identified the other victims of the parkway crash as Maria Diaz, 18, and Henry Diaz, 20, both of North Bergen, Hudson County; and Carlos Navas, 17, of West New York, also Hudson County.
The driver of the car, Nadia S. Borges, and Maria Diaz were transported to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, where they were treated and released.
Henry Diaz suffered head trauma and was flown by helicopter to the Regional Trauma Unit at Atlantic City Medical Center, City Division, where he was listed in stable condition Monday night.
Navas also suffered head trauma and was transported by ambulance to ACMC's City Division, where he was also listed in stable condition.
Pallarez was trapped in the vehicle, which came to a rest on its roof, and had to be extricated by emergency personnel, police said.