A number of people were injured — two seriously — and a 20-year-old Fort Wayne woman was arrested after a boating accident Saturday night on Lake Gage that left the boat speeding around the lake with no one aboard.
Dominique Effinger, who reportedly was driving the boat at the time of the accident, later was charged with boating while intoxicated causing injury and being a minor in possession of alcohol, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers reported. Alcohol was a factor in the crash, they said.
Conservation officers reported Steuben County 911 emergency dispatch received a call at 7:13 p.m. Saturday saying several people had been involved in a boating accident at Lake Gage and still were in the water with serious injuries. The initial information indicated 10 people had been ejected from a boat and four had serious or near-fatal injuries, conservation officers reported.
Emergency medical, fire and law enforcement officials responded to the call along with Parkview Health's Samaritan air ambulance helicopter, the report said.
When they arrived, they found several seriously injured people had been taken to shore by other boaters so EMS and fire units could treat them, the report said.
Two people were flown by Samaritan helicopter to Parkview Regional Medical Center with injuries including a skull fracture and a partial lower arm amputation, conservation officers reported. Other injured people were taken to Cameron Memorial Hospital in Angola for treatment of less serious injuries.
Based on their initial investigation, conservation officers reported Effinger allegedly was driving the 21-foot Correct Craft Ski Nautique boat at a high rate of speed when the boat "cut into a violent turn," which resulted in all 10 people aboard being ejected into the water. The boat reportedly then continued circling in the lake at about 30 mph without anyone aboard.
Conservation Officer Jake Carlile launched a DNR's Boston Whaler patrol boat to try to stop the runaway boat, conservation officers said. Steuben County Sheriff’s Department officers also alerted people on shore to move their docked boats and to clear the area because the unmanned boat kept moving closer to docks and other boats as it circled around and around by the shoreline, conservation officers reported.
Carlile was able to throw a rope from his patrol boat to tangle up the propeller of the runaway boat, the report said. But the runaway boat struck a dock, changed direction and hit the rear of Carlile's patrol boat, disabling the DNR boat's engine.
Eventually, the rope in the Ski Nautique's propeller slowed the boat enough that Carlile was able to use a nearby personal watercraft to get close to it and then jump into the boat, which he then stopped, the report said.
Conservation officers are continuing to investigate the accident, their report said.