A lawsuit filed in federal district court in Arizona accuses a Lake Powell tour boat operator of creating dangerous waves that are injuring other boaters.
The suit alleges that a tour boat operated by Aramark Sports and Entertainment created a powerful wake that sent Paul Carey flying into the air while he was sitting on the bow of a smaller boat.
“I’m up in the air. I don’t know where I’m going to land at. I don’t know how this is going to end. Am I even going to be back in the boat? All these things just went through my mind instantaneously,” said Carey, who says he broke his back when he landed back inside his boat.
Carey’s attorney, Joseph Watkins, points to a study commissioned by the National Parks Service and an investigation into a fatal boat accident conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard as evidence that Aramark is aware there is a problem with the wakes created by its tour boats.
Both reports recommend Aramark switch to newer boats with shallower hulls, which would create less wake.
“If you read the reports, it’s a bigger problem than one person’s injuries,” said Watkins.
The National Park Service, which oversees Lake Powell, has reported nine wake-related injuries on the lake between 2012 and 2015. During the same time period, there were 573 trauma injuries on the lake. A spokesperson for the Service told CBS 5 Investigates that large wakes are not a significant cause of injury on the water.
Watkins believes many of the victims of wake-related injuries don’t report the incidents to the NPS. And locals say they’ve been dealing with dangerous wakes from the tour boats for years.
“You can get six-foot, seven-foot waves from the big tour boats,” said Dave Panu, who operates Hidden Canyon Kayak.
But Panu says he doesn’t think getting rid of the big tour boats altogether is the answer.
“If you go to smaller boats, then maybe people decide to go take out boats themselves. Then you have people that don’t know how to drive boats that are going to cause more problems,” said Panu.
In its court filings, Aramark denied it was responsible for Paul Carey’s injuries. The company settled a similar wake injury case in 2008.
Aramark released the following statement to CBS 5 Investigates:
“Lake Powell is among the country’s most popular tourist destinations. As one of multiple designated concessioners (sic) operating tour boats on Lake Powell, we are committed to safely sharing and navigating the waterways with all boaters and recreational watercraft users. We regularly consult with the Coast Guard and National Park Service to ensure we are in compliance with rules and regulations for safely operating tour boats and have never been cited for causing excessive wakes by the enforcement agencies patrolling Lake Powell.”
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