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Caution Urged After Fatal Accident on Lake Gaston

Authorities asked personal watercraft operators to obey the rules after a teenage boy died in an accident involving two watercraft on Lake Gaston Tuesday evening.

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WARRENTON, N.C. — Authorities warned the public to follow water safety regulations on Lake Gaston after an 18-year-old boy was killed in an accident involving two personal watercraft Tuesday evening.

Witnesses said two teens were playing on personal watercraft in the Maple Point area for much of the day. One teen tried to splash the other with water, and their watercraft collided. One watercraft ran over the other, sending one boy into the water, authorities said.

Both teens were vacationing in the area from Connecticut, officials said. Authorities withheld their names.

The injured teen was taken to a dock at Eaton Ferry Bridge, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, authorities said. He suffered blunt trauma to the neck area, said Lt. John Reams of the state Wildlife Resources Commission.

The second teen was treated for minor injuries and released from a nearby hospital, authorities said.

The second teen will face misdemeanor charges for negligent operation of a watercraft, Reams said. By law, personal watercraft must run at idle speed within 100 feet of another vessel, and watercraft operators must not approach another vessel and swerve at the last moment.

Witnesses said that accidents involving personal watercraft are too common on Lake Gaston.

"There are lots of Jet Skis on Lake Gaston and lots of people that act like they don't know how to operate them," said David Jones, who witnessed Tuesday's rescue effort.

"We get complaints all the time, especially from fishermen that Jet Skis run up against them. They spray other boats," Jones said. "They're just not respectful."

Tuesday's accident was the second fatal one in two years in the same area of Lake Gaston.

In August 2005, a 16-year-old driver was killed and a 16-year-old passenger on one of the ski-type craft was critically injured when a second watercraft ran over the top of them as they slowed near Eaton Ferry Bridge. Authorities said the driver of the second watercraft hadn't undergone an approved boating safety course.

Reams said the state has enough regulations in place to prevent such accidents, but people need to follow the rules.

North Carolina law bans those under age 14 from operating a personal watercraft. Teens between 14 and 16 can operate watercraft if they've passed a boating safety course or are accompanied by an adult.

"The boating public just needs to wake up and comply to the laws that we have in place at this time," Reams said. "We would see less of this."