Boater dies in racing collision at St. Clair Riverfest

- One person was killed in a boat crash during a speed race at St. Clair Riverfest Sunday afternoon.

"I just heard a big boom and I saw a lot of splashing," says Ken Osiwala. He was watching from his house, and was one of hundreds who saw and heard the crash that killed a 54-year-old man Sunday afternoon.

"I grabbed my binoculars and looked right at it, and Geico's front end of the boat was gone on the one side of the pontoon, and I could see guys jumping out of the boat afterwards, out of the other boat," he says.

Just after 4:30, two of the speed boats were racing on the northern end of the St. Clair Riverfest, and were headed for the center when something went wrong.

"The boats were making the first turn in the course and something - at this point it's unknown exactly what occurred - forced one of the boats to veer off in the wrong direction and they collided," says Undersheriff Tom Buckley of St. Clair County.

Emergency responders tried to resuscitate the man. He was rushed to St. John River District Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities haven't yet named the victim. 

"It's really a terrible way to end a great weekend we've had in St. Clair. The races have been great; we've been doing this in St. Clair for 23 years. We've had some accidents, some injuries, but never fatalities before," Buckley says.

Two others were treated for minor injuries. The boat races ended for the day but the festival continued on, though many turned in early.

"I hope they have it again next year; I hope this doesn't end everything. But it's very sad for the families that lost a loved one today," says Osiwala.

Authorities are reviewing video of the crash to determine what happened. Some speculation was spreading around the festival that the crash happened because one of the drivers had a heart attack, but the undersheriff tells us he doesn't believe that was the case.

The investigation is ongoing. 

The St. Clair Riverfest is an annual free event with live music and boat races in St. Clair.

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