Boat crash witness pleads for public safety on the water this summer

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Nearly 24 hours after a boat capsized on the Pend Oreille River, the Bonners County Sheriff’s Office is still looking for three people thrown from the boat into the water.

Law enforcement has recovered one person, but the desperate search for the other three continues.

One woman who watched the incident happen says the boat was going fast down a narrow stretch of water and flipped, happening right in front of her home.

That witness is pleading for safety on the river this summer after the unthinkable unfolded in front of her eyes.

“We were on the deck watching the river and we heard an incredibly loud boat coming down at a high rate of speed,” Claudia Morris, a Sandpoint resident said. “Unfortunately, the boat right outside our house caught wind, and the wind forced the boat to come up and ultimately flip over.”

The sheriff’s office searched the water all day and found one person, but three more are still out there. The water is more than 90 feet deep, and Morris says she’s never seen anything like this happen in her backyard.

“We don’t see that kind of speed typically because it’s a smaller part of the river, so it was pretty upsetting, and I think our community is going to be very distressed by what took place,” Morris said.

She’s also distressed thinking about other boaters getting out on the water. She’s asking people to drive carefully and be extra cautious on the water this season.

“Unfortunately, this was a terrible, tragic accident for our neighborhood, and I’m hoping to see the boats take head and slow down with the holiday weekend coming up,” Morris said.

This warning is also being echoed by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office as the boat launch and beach at Q’emiln Park are set to open on Thursday.

Avista’s closed the spillways to bring water levels back to summer levels, but the sheriff’s office still warns that strong currents and cold water temperatures can quickly overcome the strongest swimmers.

READ: Dangerous water conditions in INW bringing awareness to swimmers