NORTH TONAWANDA – Authorities are trying to determine what caused a speed boat to flip and capsize off Gratwick Park late Saturday morning, leaving a man with head and leg injuries and a woman badly shaken but not seriously injured.
Christopher Overkamp, 40, and Nicholle Overkamp, 30, both of Williamsville, were participating in the Buffalo Poker Run, a charity event, according to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. Both were ejected from the boat but were wearing life jackets.
Witnesses said the boat was traveling south alongside Grand Island hugging the shoreline, as the driver began to position the boat back toward the center of the river.
“The wake from the boats in front of them pushed the top of the boat up, and then the wind did the rest,” said Luke Topolski, who was at the river to ride personal watercraft with friends.
The crash site was roughly a halfway point in the race. Witnesses estimated the boat was traveling about 80 mph at the time of the crash.
“No one knew what to do,” said Grace Topolski.
Eventually, other boaters surrounded the couple and held them until medics could be loaded into a boat to retrieve and treat the victims.
“The man had a pretty big gash. The girl had scrapes all up and down her side,” said Alec Kreutzer, who was watching the race and Snapchatting the action just before the crash happened.
Witnesses said it appeared the woman was driving the boat.
Christopher Overkamp, who was unconscious when rescued, was in critical condition in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit in Erie County Medical Center, deputies said Sunday. Nicholle Overkamp did not require treatment.
The Coast Guard, Grand Island Fire Department, Erie County Sheriff’s Office, North Tonawanda Police and North Tonawanda Fire Department participated in the rescue.
The 30-foot Spectre powerboat, still overturned, was towed to East Side Pier.
The Poker Run is an annual charity event sponsored by the Western New York Offshore Powerboating Association. This year’s two-day event raised money for the Excalibur Leisure Skills Center to help people with disabilities enjoy Lake Erie.
Participants launch their boats from Templeton Landing downtown, then make a series of planned stops at different bars and restaurants. At each one, players receive a playing card. The team that has collected the best poker hand by the end is declared the race’s winner.
Last year’s event drew 400 people in 118 boats.