• Friends: Please double-check the email address you have on file. Make sure that it is current and able to receive email. When our emails are rejected it can damage our ratings and slow down future deliveries.
    Thanks!

Boat Ramp Accidents

Gem Morris

Well-Known Member
Something Ryan said in another post got me to thinking (I know, I know)...

You can watch on YouTube 100's of videos of tow vehicles floating in the lake and about to sink (or already sunk) with trailers attached. I have yet to see one video of what happened 10 seconds before the accident occurred.

So, what goes wrong? Why are these cars/trucks floating in the lake? Has this ever happened to you? You can tell the story of a "friend" if you want to remain anonymous.

I think it would help the rest of us to know what went wrong and what we might do to prevent such an accident.
 

mobilerat

Member
In the '80s on the salt River chain canyon lake was notorious for one boat ramp becoming so slippery cars would back down touch the brakes and just continue into the lake. It was very deep they would have to send scuba divers down to hook onto the vehicle. This happened to my buddies uncle's Cadillac and it amazed me in the summer heat it dried out and was completely back to normal in a few days after they fished it out of the lake
 

Meatwagon

Well-Known Member
In the '80s on the salt River chain canyon lake was notorious for one boat ramp becoming so slippery cars would back down touch the brakes and just continue into the lake. It was very deep they would have to send scuba divers down to hook onto the vehicle. This happened to my buddies uncle's Cadillac and it amazed me in the summer heat it dried out and was completely back to normal in a few days after they fished it out of the lake
So true, in 89 my brother almost lost his 2wheel drive pick up while trying to pull our boat out. He kept sliding in until over half of the truck was in the water. We had another truck hook a tow strap to us and got us out. It was years before we went back to canyon lake again, and with a 4×4.
 

Rivergoer

Well-Known Member
My numbskull (and thankfully former) neighbor sank his lime green Scion xB (photo below).

I happened upon his abandoned sunken vehicle at the ramp down the street from my house (Colorado River, Parker Strip). A few inches of the roof visible above water, the floating 3-seater watercraft was still attached to the dual-PWC trailer. The Scion’s flashers were visible underwater...apparently the computer didn’t like H2O much...

A few minutes after I found it, the owner returned on the other PWC. He’d apparently taken the ski out for a quick jaunt up the river, leaving the Scion parked on the ramp with the e-brake on.

Well, a few wakes rolled in while he was gone, lifting the remaining jet ski on the trailer. This provided enough lift to get the Scion’s rear wheels off the ground. Front-Wheel Drive, Manual transmission, stick in Neutral, no e-braked rear wheels in contact with pavement...down she went.

Once in the water, the rear end stayed afloat long enough to let the whole shootin’ match roll out about 2 car lengths. Long story short, next time I saw that car it was sitting on a flat-bed tow truck with water still draining out the doors.

Scion xB
656F9F32-9DE5-4B2B-9DBE-472984B76DD7.jpeg
 

Not Yet You Bet

Well-Known Member
I think the best thing you can do is set the emergency brake before you get out of the vehicle. I don't know if the newer automatic transmissions are better or not, but I do know several situations where the vehicle was put into park and then the driver got out of the vehicle. For some reason it would slip or pop out of park and into reverse. Possibly they did not get it all the way into park or the vibration of the engine made it pop out of park, but it is hard to catch a running vehicle going backwards down the ramp in reverse without a driver, especially if you are older like me.

Years ago we thought there was an earthquake because out house shook, but when we went outside a car from up the street was on our porch. The neighbor had left it running in park to warm it up and was inside his house when it popped into reverse and come down the street and crashed into out house. He was as surprised when he come out and his car was gone as we were when we found the car on out porch.

I have also seen inexperienced, or unfamiliar with the vehicle drivers think they were in drive (forward) when they were actually in reverse. They let the brake off give it the gas (especially with manual transmissions) and before they can react they are really in deep, especially on a steep ramp when they are already in the water.
 

botnb

Well-Known Member
I've always had a 4x, but have seen the scenario with the water going down and someone went down, started spinning and actually slid backwards, but didn't really lose it. I've also seen people take the winch cable and stern straps off on top and start down and the boat left the trailer. Always roller trailers, tho... Enough to ruin your day !!
 

Jwc

Well-Known Member
I’ve seen it happen a couple times fishing winter tournaments in the ozarks, ramp turns to black ice after a boat launches and next one in just slides in, saw it on lake of the ozarks once and table rock once, both rigs were saved. Other than that which is probably not too common among folks not putting in at dark thirty in early February, my guess is sometimes people back in way too deep and their boat floats their back wheels and they lose contact with the ramp..
 

Dungee

Well-Known Member
We almost got permanently stuck retrieving from Blue Notch once, cause of that was just stupidity of trying.

My dad and grandpa watched a guy sink their van at Mead, I always remember them talking about that. He just kept inching too far back until he crossed the point of no return. Haven’t seen anything else launching wise surprisingly. We do however usually avoid the bigger more popular weekends. I would guess a lot of funky stuff happens then.
 

Ryan

Well-Known Member
I've seen it happen once - on a very shallow ramp at Lake McConaughy. Guy kept going deeper and deeper to try to get enough water to float the boat off the trailer. Finally could tell that the rear of his truck started to float. Fortunately for him, there was a tractor nearby, and they were able to pull him out before he completely lost his truck.

We've had a couple of exciting launches. Once, launching my 16' Lund with my DRW diesel 4x4. It was November/December, and we hit ice at the top of the ramp, and slid all the way down to the waterline. Fortunately, as soon as the rear tires of the truck hit the water we stopped. Not sure how I didn't jack-knife going down, but we didn't. Was able to pull over to the side of the ramp where there was dirt to get traction and drive out.

A couple times trying to launch the Malibu with the Yukon and Ex we had all four tires on the SUV locked up while the weight of the boat pulled everything towards the water. That won't happen anymore as I upgraded to electric trailer brakes on that trailer.

I've also had first-hand experience of a vehicle "popping" out of park on a slope, but it wasn't with a boat. Back in the early '90's, a buddy and I took my dad's Jeep Grand Cherokee up camping. That turned into a little four wheeling. I stopped on a hill, put the Jeep in park, and got out to water the bushes. Next thing I know, I see the Jeep rolling down hill and making a clicking noise. Lucky my buddy was in the car and hit the brakes before it ran into a tree. Never told dad about that one. I am pretty sure that Jeep did a recall to fix that, as others were not as lucky as I was.

Also happened once with my last truck. It was a 3500 4x4 manual transmission. We were in the mountains with a dump trailer attached, loading boulders for landscaping. I had the truck running in neutral, parking brake engaged, buddy using a skid steer for the boulders. The last one he put on was just too much weight, and the truck and trailer started going down hill, front tires rolling, rears locked up and sliding. I was able to run and jump into the cab before any damage was done.

Now that I look back on it, I've been lucky more than once.
 

davew

Well-Known Member
Quick story about this---
Was in Laughlin probably 20 years ago -- people were launching mostly jet skis into the Colorado river at a very short ramp. There was a older gentleman helping people launch for tips.
Along comes a real SOB in a big truck and a big boat -triple axel trailer type --- the gentleman helping told him that we could not launch there as ramp was not deep enough -- well the SOB said " I can launch anywhere I like" --- get out of my way-- older gentleman suggested he lock in hubs before backing down --- again -- SOB "i know what I am doing get the hell out of my way " he starts backing trailer up when boom -- it falls of the end of ramp-- turns out there was a several foot drop at end of ramp -- at this point the truck could not go forward or backward -- The SOB tried spinning the tires off -- he could not get into 4 wheel drive because int he older trucks of that time they needed to roll forward or backward a few feet to lock in -- he could not move a inch let alone a foot. He gets out screaming and yelling at anyone that will listen -- needless to say he was not getting much of a positive response.
I slowly walked over to him -- I was on beach just off the ramp-- and offered to pull him out for $500 -- he let me know what I could do with that $500-- I walked back to my spot, and watched -- he tried to get in the water and help lift the trailer while his buddy spun the wheels -- he took out a jack and tried to lift the front of truck and get into 4 wheel -- nothing worked -- finally he come over and agreed to the $500 -- ( his buddy ran to the ATM at casino while I got truck and tow strap) -- the older gentleman that was helping out come over to me and asked in I needed any help with ropes -- I said yes and he helped out--- After I got all hooked up the SOB came over and paid me -- I got in my truck he got in his and I was able to pull him out.

Now best part -- I got out, SOB got out, and gentleman helper come and we all meet between the two trucks -- gentleman says to me loud enough for SOB to hear -- "if he would have waited a few more minutes they start releasing a lot more water out of the damn, he could have floated the boat off and gotten out of there" -- I pulled the $500 out and handed to the gentleman helper -- the cussing coming out of the SOB's truck as he smoked the tires pulling out of there was the most beautiful music I have ever heard --
 

Gem Morris

Well-Known Member
So...

The main culprit seems to be slippery boat ramps - mostly in the ocean at low tide but other ramps as well.

One solution would be (if you have a 4WD) make sure you're in 4WD AND gear shift in park because emergency brakes don't do anything for the front wheels?

Is that a reasonable solution?
 

davew

Well-Known Member
Gem, I do not think it is that easy --- just reading what others have said there potentially are a lot of "causes" that need to be looked at every time you launch-- just what has been said so far:
- is the ramp icy because of temperature-- is ramp deep enough to accommodate how far back I am backing
- is ramp slippery because of moss / low tide -- do i have the boat unhooked from back of trailer -- is the boat / trailer to heavy for my tow vehicle
list goes on and on -- I think best thing would be to have a laminated cheat sheet just like private and commercial pilots have. You go over the list of items every time. It includes ramp items as well as boat items ( is the plug in!!!!!)
I think this is a great idea especially if someone other than you might be the one using the boat or launching / retrieving when you are not there.
Last year both my wife and 21 yo son used the boat without me there. I am sure both would have appreciated a check off guide.
As all of us know -- it can get hectic at the launch ramp -- more prepared = less stress.
 

TR.

Well-Known Member
So...

The main culprit seems to be slippery boat ramps - mostly in the ocean at low tide but other ramps as well.

One solution would be (if you have a 4WD) make sure you're in 4WD AND gear shift in park because emergency brakes don't do anything for the front wheels?

Is that a reasonable solution?
Everglades rod and gun club. Shaded, steep, big tides and slippery as hell. I had to buy new tires after I needed some big boys sitting on my hood to get up the ramp. Even with new tires that ramp can have serious pucker factor on a well used and wet day, especially on a negative tide. To be fair, I only have front wheel drive. I’ll have to correct that one day.

TR
 

ranger621

Member
I hope someone chimes in that they new this guy or perhaps he’s on the board. Sometime between 1981 to 1983 we were launching at Wahweap in March, not many boats out. We were in my buddies Champion bass boat and a guy in a new black Ford truck (Utah window sticker in the rear window) backs his bass boat into the water, gets out of truck, hops in the truck bed and then into the boat, as he’s starting his boat the truck starts backing into the water, he runs and gets into the truck bed and is standing on the cab as it disappears into Lake Powell. We motored over and picked him up and got the Park Service, which got a diver over and they retrieved the boat within 45 minutes. The truck sit there on the ramp with water running out of it for a long time. I was sick for the guy. I’am hoping someone might know this man, ranger621
 
Top