A Lackawanna man drowned after being knocked off a personal watercraft and into the path of a 45-foot cabin cruiser Sunday afternoon off Niawanda Park, police say.
Authorities continue to look for the body of Ahmed Umar, 51, in the Niagara River.
Initial reports had the watercraft and boat colliding in the middle of the river in the area behind Tonawanda City Hall, but Capt. Fredric Foels of the City of Tonawanda Police Department said Monday that there appears not to have been a collision.
"During our preliminary investigation and witness statements, and examining physical evidence, we do not believe there was a collision between the two vessels," Foels said. "We are looking into the possibility a large wake or swell caused the occupants of the (personal watercraft) to be thrown into the water and struck by the passing boat."
An 8-year-old relative of Umar, who was also on the craft, sustained a minor cut on her foot and did not have to be hospitalized.
Foels said it was a hectic Sunday on the water when the cabin cruiser, heading west on the river, struck Umar.
"It was busy out there, the waves were roaring and the boat traffic was unbelievable," Foels said. "For whatever reason, they were thrown off ... and into the path of this boat. It's a big boat, and with boats like that, you can't hit the brakes."
Foels said the 59-year-old driver of the Sun Seeker model cabin cruiser was fully cooperative with the investigation and "is pretty distraught."
"It was called in at 4:30, and when I arrived I looked up the river, and Niawanda Park was packed," Foels said. "It was one of those Sunday last-day-of-the-summer days. The river was full of traffic and Jet Skiers and kayakers and everything."
The vessel was rented by Umar from Waikiki Water rentals of Grand Island, located next to the Radisson Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn).
Police boats from the Erie and Niagara County sheriff's departments, Border Patrol and Grand Island Fire have assisted the City of Tonawanda Police boat in the search, which is continuing. Crews were out until dark Sunday and resumed their search Monday morning; the City of Tonawanda Police boat utilized its SONAR in the search.