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Six killed when sleek speedboat slices through cabin cruiser

November 26, 1997

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A sleek speedboat came out of the darkness and sliced through a cabin cruiser taking some friends on a nighttime outing, killing six people in one of Florida’s deadliest boating accidents.

The speeding ``cigarette boat″ tore a hole in the 31-foot cruiser late Monday night, scattering bodies and wreckage for hundreds of yards along the Intracoastal Waterway, popular with recreational boaters.

Two people on the 45-foot speedboat, the Merrymaker, were seriously injured.

Alcohol bottles were found in the speedboat and in the water, but sheriff’s spokesman Jim Leljedal said it was not immediately known if alcohol contributed to the accident.

Three of the men on the cruiser were found dead in the water. The bodies of three other men were pulled Tuesday from the wreckage of the cruiser, which sank in 25 feet of water. After cutting through the cruiser, the speedboat rammed a dock near a condominium about 500 yards away.

``There was blood everywhere. Then, there were cushions coming by with blood on them,″ said Mark Morden, who saw the speedboat hit the dock.

Jay Colonna, 37, the cruiser’s owner and among the dead, had taken his cousin and a few out-of-state friends out for the evening.

His cousin John Colonna, 38, of Sicklerville, N.J., along with Donald Draper, 50, of Chicago, Joseph Mongelluzzo, 48, of Wilmington, Del., and Roger Wypyszynski, 60, of Bausman, Pa., were in town for a sales meeting held by Rollins Truck Leasing Corp. of Wilmington.

The sixth victim, Simon Prankerd, 32, of Lighthouse Point, Fla., was also a friend of Jay Colonna, who lived in Delray Beach.

``Jay brought his boat down there to take his cousin and four other buddies to show them a good time,″ Leljedal said.

The speedboat’s owner, Stanley Cameron, 56, of Fort Lauderdale and passenger Deborah Keener, 44, of Houston were hospitalized after being pulled from the water. Cameron was in critical condition, Ms. Keener in serious condition.

Autopsies were ordered, and no charges were immediately filed. Investigators were not able to find any witnesses to the collision.

Detectives said the long, slender speedboat was going faster than the posted 25 mph limit. With three engines, such a boat was capable of going about 80 mph, Leljedal said.

Residents said posted speed limits on the waterway are often ignored.

``Sometimes they go by here full throttle,″ said Jack Casey, who lives in the condo near the dock rammed by the speedboat. ``I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before this.″

With 1,300 miles of coastline, 51,000 miles of rivers and more than 7,000 lakes and ponds, Florida leads the nation in boating fatalities. Residents have nearly 750,000 boats, and visitors bring 400,000 more to the state each year.

In 1996, 59 people died in boating accidents in Florida, down from 82 in 1995. Sixty-three people have died this year so far.

In April, a German couple were killed when their rented pleasure boat got sucked under the sloped bow of a barge moored in the Intracoastal Waterway. Nine others on board survived.

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