GoPro video captures boaters’ dramatic leap into the water to escape a boat crash

Three people preparing to jump off boat as another boat approaches [Credit: Salmon Trout Steelheader]

Three Oregonian salmon fishers underwent the ultimate boaters’ reflex test when they had to jump into the Columbia River at the last second to avoid being run over by a speeding boat.

Bryan Maess, an off-duty police officer and salmon fisherman, was out on his fishing boat with two friends last summer when they noticed a large Trophy motorboat accelerating towards them. Maess began waving and shouting at the boat when it was still a fair distance away, but it only took seconds for the Trophy to close the gap. The three people on the smaller boat jumped into the water at the very last second, narrowly avoiding being caught in what could have been a fatal crash.

Maess is now suing the driver of the Trophy boat, 75-year-old Marlin Lee Larsen, who told law enforcement that he couldn’t see where he was going because he was sitting down, and his view was blocked by the dash. He admitted that he probably should have been standing. His son-in-law also spoke to investigators and told them he’d warned his father-in-law to pay attention and that Larsen had also been using his cellphone while driving — a practice that is against the law in Oregon.

Maess is now suing larsen for $372,500, and says he now suffers vision problems, headaches, and injuries to his leg, ankle, and arm from being hit by debris in the crash. Larsen has also been charged in a criminal case with misdemeanor crimes of reckless operation of a boat, fourth-degree assault and recklessly endangering the lives of others. He has plead not guilty.

gashes in boat hull
The larger boat left deep gashes in the the dash of Maess’s Weldcraft fishing boat.

Larsen told the Oregonian that he hadn’t been using his cellphone and referred to that story as “fake news.” He also said he found the lawsuit unnecessary and said that the occupants of the other boat hadn’t been hurt badly.

The video of the crash was caught by a GoPro camera that was mounted on Maess’s boat and gives viewers a perfect view into what that moment must have been like, and how quickly the fishers’ vague alarm at the oncoming boat turns to a split-second decision to abandon ship.

There are lessons to be learned from this boat crash. The most notable, of course, is to always look where you’re going when you’re driving a speeding boat. But it’s also a good reminder to wear a lifejacket, since, as this video shows, sometimes there are only eight seconds between a friendly warning wave and a panicked leap off the side of a boat.

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