Five boaters from Amherst were rescued Sunday on the Niagara River after their racing boat sank near the northern tip of Navy Island, 1 1/2 miles above the Canadian Falls.
Niagara Regional Police estimated the damage to the boat at $70,000 and, in a preliminary finding, said the boat "apparently struck a sandbar, causing severe damage to the right side."
Witnesses, however,said the 28-foot boat was speeding when it suddenly made a hard turn, then hit its own wake and sank. It was about 200 yards from the danger zone, where boaters are warned not to continue down the Niagara River toward Goat Island and the mighty cataract.
The U.S. Coast Guard received a report of people in the water at 5:55 p.m.; boaters in the area pulled out the woman and four men. No one was injured.
One of the rescue boats was piloted by Bob Karl, who is first assistant chief of the Main-Transit Fire Department.
"We pulled three of them into our boat," said Chris Schunk of Williamsville, who was sailing with Karl and Chris Taggart for the afternoon. "It was unbelievable that nobody was hurt."
Although the boat had been half a mile away when it got into trouble, Schunk said he and other rescuers "heard a crash, or a loud boom," just before it sank.
"They said they made a hard turn while going 30 to 40 mph -- real sudden -- and they hit their wake, and the cabin just filled with water," Schunk said. "It went down in 20 or 30 seconds."
The motorboat floundered in Canadian waters, according the Niagara Parks Police in Ontario, which transported four of the five passengers to shore. The fifth was transported by the Erie County Sheriff's Department to a marina on the U.S. shore.
The boat had left earlier in the day from the Big Six Mile Creek Marina on Grand Island.
Rick Spoth of Lake Erie Towing & Salvage said he towed the disabled boat to the Ontario shore, where Canadian authorities impounded it pending an investigation into the sinking.
"When we got there, there was only a tip (of the boat) above the water -- the bow," he said.
Fire and rescue officials in Chippawa, Ont., also called to the scene, said they found parts of the red, black and white boat in the river on their way to the area.
Two men, meanwhile, were rescued Sunday night after their boat capsized in Lake Erie, off Beachwood Drive in the Town of Hamburg.
A helicopter from the Erie County Sheriff's Department assisted the Hamburg Water Rescue Unit in the rescue shortly after 9 p.m. The U.S. Coast Guard provided communication during the rescue of the men, who were not seriously injured.
Beachwood Drive is just south of the Wanakah Country Club.