Driver injured, had been aiming for inner wall light
Written by Ludington Daily News   
Monday, 14 August 2006 08:06

Throngs of curious people walked out on the Ludington North Breakwater Sunday morning to ogle a Rangemaster 5000 fishing boat that missed the harbor entrance overnight Saturday and landed on the wall.

At least one person on board was injured in the accident. The 23.5-foot boat was southbound and hit the wall about midway between the lighthouse and the elbow just before 11 p.m. Saturday.

The boat apparently first went up on a slanted rock that provided a bit of a launching ramp to provide lift before the fiberglass hull of the boat came to rest on the wall, wedged in place on two edges of different levels of the wall. At least one downrigger ball was swinging in the breeze behind the stern. The prop of the inboard/outboard engine was resting above the water, just short of the rocks.

About 2 p.m. the boat was refloated and towed to the dock.

Steve Abrahamson of Abrahamson’s Marine said his company lifted the boat off of the wall, plugged the “extensively damaged” hull, and put the boat back in the water.

“We had an audience,” Abrahamson said. “I’ll bet there were 50 people out there watching.”

Abrahamson said it took between five and six hours to get the boat off the wall and back to shore.

The driver/owner, Robert Arnett, 53, of Flint, was taken to Memorial Medical Center of West Michigan. According to Chief Trey Bennett of Coast Guard Station Ludington, Arnett hit the steering wheel upon impact. A Ludington Police report stated Arnett was bleeding profusely from his mouth and lost several teeth in the accident.

His passenger, Robert Gordon Murphy, 45, from Troy, was shaken up but otherwise uninjured. Murphy received a bump on his head and refused treatment for his injury.

Chief Bennett said Arnett was looking at the inner wall light and was driving “wide open” at the time of the collision.

The Ludington Police report stated one of the men was out on the bow because they were having difficulty navigating with all of the harbor lights and had just sat down when the impact occurred.

The report also stated Arnett was using the red light on rocks near Loomis Boat ramp to navigate and that he was not using GPS, navigating only by sight.

The Mason County Sheriff’s Marine Division report stated alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

This is the second boat vs. breakwall incident of the year, the first hit one of Ludington’s harbor piers but did not land on the wall. Saturday’s crash is the first since the Coast Guard changed the light in the lighthouse to green to avoid such collisions.

For a while one boat hit a pier per year, but since 2004 there have been 11 instances.

Abrahamson said this accident was another example of why the breakwall should be better illuminated.

“The green light (in the Lighthouse) has helped from the south and coming right in, but from the north side, it’s still a little confusing,” Abrahamson said.

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