After more than a month-and-a-half of detailed investigation, the Law Enforcement Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has released its report on the July 15 high-performance boating accident that claimed the lives of the boat’s operator/owner Art McMahan and passengers Melissa McMahan (the operator’s wife), Anthony Reece and his wife, Tammy Reece. Classified by the DNR as a capsizing, first and second “contributors” to the accident are listed as “excessive speed and careless/reckless operation.”
Art McMahan’s 388 Skater leaves the Cheeseburger in Paradise raft-up lunch event during Friday’s festitivities. Photo by Jason Johnson
Witness statements collected for the report estimated the boat’s speed to be “100 to 130 mph.” The last recorded speed on the boat’s recovered GPS unit was 148 mph, according to the report.
What follows is the report’s conclusion:
“Based upon witness statements, physical evidence available at the time of the investigation, and my knowledge, training and expertise as a Critical Incident Reconstruction Team Investigator, I, Corporal Will Smith, conclude the following:
“On July 15, 2016, Arthur McMahon (operator/owner), Melissa McMahon, Anthony and Tammy Reece were in McMahon’s Skater vessel (Vessel 1) on Lake Lanier. Arthur McMahon was the operator of the vessel. Melissa McMahon was in the front starboard seat. Anthony and Tammy Reece were seated in the rear seats. Vessel 1 was traveling southwest near Lake Lanier Islands and Cocktail Cove. Vessel 1 was behind David Southern’s vessel (Vessel 2) “Pure Platinum,” and attempted to overtake Vessel 2 on the port side. As Vessel 1 crossed the wake of Vessel 2, Vessel 1 ramped over the wake. Due to the high rate of speed Vessel 1 was traveling, the bow lifted into the air and Vessel 1 became airborne. Vessel 1 fell back to the water on its port stern sponson first. The starboard sponson came down and the vessel began to bounce starboard to port. According to witnesses, this is when the occupants of Vessel 1 were ejected. The impact with the water at speeds exceeding 100 mph likely caused instant death to the victims. The vessel continued forward and rolled onto the starboard side before coming to rest upside down.
“It is my opinion that speed was a major contributing factor in this incident. It is my opinion had the trim tabs/K-planes been installed, the bow of the vessel could have stayed down therefore not allowing the vessel to ramp out of the water. However, the same effect could have been obtained by the operator having the motors of the vessel trimmed properly. It is also my opinion that proper use of personal flotation devices could have helped the survivability of the victims.”
Toxicology, a standard practice for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division when investigating such incidents, was not performed on Mr. McMahon, the boat’s operator.
“I requested blood to drawn for toxicology but was advised blood could not be drawn due to coagulation,” Corporal Smith wrote in the report. “I was also advised the urine could not be retrieved for toxicology.”