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Old 11-03-2007
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Ouch!

Five injured as boat crashes
Posted by By GUY BUSBY / Staff Reporter November 03, 2007 7:24 AM
Categories: Breaking News
Five people were injured Thursday night when a 23-foot boat traveling about 30 mph hit unlit pilings left exposed since 2004 when Hurricane Ivan damaged the Alabama Gulf State Park pier, marine police said Friday.

The Formula-brand vessel was returning to the Orange Beach Marina from a fishing trip to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico when it struck the west side of the pilings at around 7:50 p.m., said Alabama Marine Police Officer Richard Miller.

Four of the five people were taken to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley, Miller said. Thomas P. Brown of Orange Beach, operator of the boat, had been listed in critical condition after being admitted, but his status was upgraded Friday to good, said hospital spokeswoman Barbara Boller.

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Mike Combs and Gerald Drummund were also in good condition at the Foley hospital, she said.

Jordan Kitchens was transferred to the University of South Alabama Medical Center, and a spokeswoman there described his condition as fair.

The fifth person, a juvenile, was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Miller said. He said Marine Police were not releasing the name of the juvenile because of the child's age. The condition of the juvenile was not available Friday.

The boat was traveling east toward Orange Beach when it struck a concrete piling, according to a Marine Police statement. The statement said the boat was running close to shore to avoid waves farther out in the Gulf.

Miller said no charges have been filed. The incident is under investigation.

The pier, which extended 875 feet into the Gulf, was partially destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Three small sections of exposed pilings remain, including one on the beach, one about half-way out and a section that had supported the end of the pier.

Trey Myers, assistant superintendent of the park, said the pilings have not been marked by lights since the storm.

"The only lights that were ever out there were lights for the fishermen," he said. "They've never had any kind of navigation lights or anything."

Terry Boyd, chief engineer for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said Friday afternoon that he had no comment on the accident. He said he would not answer questions about conditions or safety measures at the pier or plans for the structure.

Work is scheduled to begin this month to build a new pier about 300 feet to the east of the site of the old structure. The new pier is scheduled to be completed in early 2009. Myers said that once the pier is complete, park officials hope to remove the old pilings and use the material to make an artificial reef near the end of the new structure.

Myers said he did not know where the boat struck the pilings, but the vessel was
sunk in the Gulf about 100 yards from shore.
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