(Aug. 9, 2019) Natural Resource Police investigators have found that a mechanical failure was the main cause of a pontoon boat crash that occurred last week under the Route 50 Bridge.
A Natural Resource Police spokeswoman said the cause of the mechanical failure is under investigation, and that the precise nature of the problem is not available.
In addition, the weight of the occupants played a role as well, as the boat capsized after it hit the bridge and dumped all its passengers overboard.
There were 15 occupants on the Time Rental Company boat, one person fewer than the boat’s 16 person maximum capacity.
However, what may have not been taken into account was the weight of everyone on board, which exceeded the boats limit.
“The legal capacity for the vessel was 16 people, but it was overloaded according to weight capacity,” NRP spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Medellin said. “When it struck the bridge, the starboard pontoon separated from the deck which caused [it] to capsize.”
Having an overloaded boat can cause problems on any boat, regardless of how well it’s operating, she said.
“It [a heavy boat] can affect the steering or the response of the boat,” Medellin said.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recommends distributing loads evenly fore and aft and from side to side. Furthermore, items should be kept low in the boat and secured to prevent shifting, while passengers should remain seated.
The USCG also requires all motorized mono-hull boats less than 20 feet in length to have a U.S. Coast Guard Maximum Capacities information label.
If a boat does not have this label, there is a formula that boat riders may use in order to determine the weight capacity:
Maximum number of persons is equal to boat length times boat width divided by 15.
This formula is only applicable to mono-hull boats less than 20 feet in length.
The key is to ensure that a boat’s weight capacity is not exceeded and that everything — from safety gear to people — is evenly distributed throughout the boat, to avoid destabilization.