Vessel rolled from small trailer during move
An unidentified man was airlifted from Valdez on a medical emergency flight Friday night after receiving extensive but unspecified injuries after he was pinned under a large boat that had rolled off a boat trailer at the Small Boat Harbor lay down yard.
“Thanks to the public this guy might live,” Rodney Walters said.
Walters was one of an estimated 25 to 30 people that rushed to the scene of the accident that could easily have taken the victim’s life according to rescuers.
“This is probably the worst accident I’ve seen in the boat harbor for 15 or 20 years,” Walters said.
Walters, who lives on a boat with his family in the harbor, was working in the lay down yard at the time of the accident.
“We were working here when the accident happened,” he said. People that work or spend a great deal of time in the area had been sneaking looks at the men working to load the 34 foot boat, the Donny Brook, onto a small trailer. Then something went terribly wrong.
“Someone screamed out ‘this guy is dying! We’ve got to do something!’” Walters said.
“People came out of nowhere.”
Witnesses say 25-30 men took turns trying to lift the wooden boat to save the victim, who was reportedly unconscious and had turned blue from the crushing weigh on his chest.
“He was hurt very bad,” Walters said. “The bow of the boat was flat on his chest.”
When it looked as if time was running out for the victim, the volunteer rescuers were able to move the vessel enough to save the man’s life.
“You couldn’t believe it,” Walters said of what he called a very scary event. “We were able to pick that boat up to get him from out underneath it.”
The man began breathing and regained consciousness after the boat’s weight was removed from his chest.
Numerous witnesses say they’d been watching two or three men trying to load the Donny Brook onto a boat trailer that appeared too small to contain the large, deep-keeled vessel. In fact, one witness, who asked not to be identified, said the team moving the boat appeared very amateurish in their attempts to load the boat and many working in the lay down yard that day were keeping their ears open in case the boat fell.
“It’s one of the reasons they got such a good response,” the witness said.
Harbor habitué Delbert Ferrier was more blunt.
“I warned him about the… trailer,” Ferrier said. “I told them it couldn’t fit on that little trailer.”
Ferrier, who has a boat dry docked next to the Donny Brook, was critical of the actions of the boat’s handlers prior to the accident.
“They modified that trailer,” he claimed.
Photos taken after the accident show large timbers placed horizontally along the length of the trailer.
“One of the wheels was flat,” Ferrier said. “The other was almost flat.”
He also believes the Donny Brook would not have stayed put on the trailer if it managed to leave the lay down yard.
“That boat wouldn’t have stayed on that trailer,” Ferrier said.
Harbormaster Steve Waller, who participated in the rescue, said the boat’s original owner had died and the men attempting to move the boat were there at the behest of its new owner. Its final destination is unknown at this time.
“He was so lucky,” Ferrier said of the victim. “He was dying as we were speaking.”