The tragic accident that killed a 19-year-old Boise man at Lucky Peak Sunday could help prevent future tragedies by hammering home the importance of safety on the water, say the deputies who patrol the reservoir for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.
At least that’s their hope, deputies Jacob Breckon and Mark Hudson said Tuesday afternoon.
“As unfortunate as this is, it helps us in our job,” Hudson said, adding that it illustrates how devastating an accident can be.
Armin Cehic was on an inner tube being towed by a ski boat driven by his father near Goose Neck Bay about 4:30 p.m. Sunday when the tube swung toward the steep rocky cliffs, the sheriff’s office reported. Cehic apparently let go and hit the rocks, investigators said. Another man being towed was not hurt because the tube cushioned the impact, they said.
People on the boat began CPR and got Cehic to nearby Barclay Bay, where a doctor and then paramedics took over, the sheriff’s office reports. He was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where he was pronounced dead about 6:30 p.m.
On Tuesday morning, the Ada County Coroner’s Office released Cehic’s name and said the death was accidental, caused by skull fracture.
The fatal crash is still under investigation, and it has not been determined whether any charges or citations will be filed, Ada County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Patrick Orr said Tuesday. Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, he said.
Hudson and Breckon, who were not on duty Sunday, did not discuss that specific crash but said the potential for injury and death is high when tubers and others are towed through narrow areas at the popular water sports site.
“An accident is bound to happen,” Breckon said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
“Speed and proximity are the two main worries,” Hudson added, noting that on busy weekends it is especially easy to get too close to cliffs or other watercraft. Fast-moving boats create wakes for an exciting ride, he said, but that can increase the danger.
Although this accident was by far the most severe the deputies can recall, a woman suffered a serious back injury while tubing at Lucky Peak last year, Hudson said.
“There’s a handful of them every year— a busted finger, a sprained back, a broken leg, lots of bruises,” Breckon said.
Ski boats towing inner tubes, wake boards, water skiers and surfers are very popular at Lucky Peak, the deputies said, and they enjoy seeing people have fun on the water. But they also want to stress caution and safety-consciousness.
There is no speed limit on the water, Breckon said, but “go at a speed where you can be in full control.”
Deputies also recommend allowing at least 100 feet between the boat and other objects at all times. That can be tricky in narrow areas such as Gooseneck Bay, they said.
Pointing to the steep cliffs in a narrow spot similar to where the fatal accident happened, Breckon said, “there’s no shoreline, no vegetation, really no buffer. There’s no room for mistakes.”
Perhaps the deputies’ top recommendation for boaters and other water sports enthusiasts is to take the free one -day water safety training offered by Idaho State Parks and Recreation. It’s available online, and it can earn participants an Idaho Boater Education Certificate, in addition to potentially life-saving knowledge, they said.
Similar boater safety programs are mandated in some states, but not in Idaho, Breckon said, adding, “I would love to see that happen.”
“Most Idaho boaters don’t take that class, that’s certainly true,” Hudson said, “but it’s also true that most boaters are responsible people.”
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447