Maryland Natural Resources Police are investigating whether alcohol was a factor in a boating accident in Charles County last weekend that left one woman dead and eight people injured.

Stephanie Anne Nobilio, 19, of Alexandria, died about 4:40 a.m. Sunday when the 23-foot Wellcraft powerboat she and eight others were riding in crashed into an 80-foot barge in Mattawoman Creek, police said. Officials said the barge was not lit and it is unclear if it was supposed to be.

Police spokesman Morris Jones called the incident "the worst boating accident this boating season."

"At this point we can say that alcohol is being investigated as a factor, but the investigation is continuing," said Natural Resources Police Cpl. Randy Witter. "Charges are pending, and we will be discussing the case with the state's attorney. But at this point, a lot of the people we need to talk to are injured and medicated and we can't interview them."

Witter said police routinely look at alcohol or drugs as factors in boating accidents that result in serious injury or death. He said police also are investigating whether speeding was involved in the incident Sunday.

Alcohol or illegal drugs are involved in 75 percent of the fatal boating accidents in the United States and 50 to 60 percent of drownings, said police Lt. Col. Frank Wood.

Nobilio died at the scene, and the others were taken to area hospitals, where they were treated for internal injuries, cuts and broken bones, said Jones.

Blood samples, which were taken from some of the nine people in the boat, may be analyzed to determine if anyone on the boat was under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, Witter said.

Police Lt. David Street said it is illegal in Maryland to operate a boat while intoxicated. But it is not illegal to consume alcoholic beverages aboard boats, he said.

The Natural Resources Police four years ago implemented a program called SWAMP -- Safer Waterways through Alcohol Monitoring Patrols -- and another known as the Sober Skipper program, both geared to stamping out drunken boat operating, Street said.

Last year, 28 people died on Maryland waterways, and about 12 of the accidents were alcohol- or drug-related, Wood said. A total of 132 people were arrested in Maryland in the fiscal year 1989-90 on charges of operating a boat under the influence, up from 103 in 1988 and 86 in 1987, Wood said.

In Virginia, 44 people were arrested on similar charges last year, the first year an operating-under-the-influence law was in effect, Wood said.

The laws make operating a boat under the influence a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine.

"We try to tell people that alcohol and boating don't mix," said Street. "Operating a boat is a lot more difficult than a car because you've got boats coming from all directions. And you've got wave action and people in the water. Even one drink can impair you."

Keith Black, a manager at the Tyme n' Tyde docking facility in Woodbridge, said it is not unusual for boaters to consume alcohol. "Just about everybody who has a boat has partaken {aboard}," he said. "It's a good idea to have a designated driver on a boat just like in a car."

Vivian Wilborne, who works at the Gangplank Marina in the District, said laws were enacted only recently to curtail alcohol consumption by boaters and those laws are not enforced as stringently as drunk-driving laws. "People will take a chance to operate a boat drunk who would not drive drunk," she said.