Neither Christopher McMahon’s neon green hat nor his waving hand seemed to catch the attention of the approaching 31-foot Bayliner Trophy motorboat. It roared toward him and his two friends, who were fishing for salmon on Oregon’s Columbia River.
“Hey!” McMahon yelled. “Hey! HEY!” Just a moment later, McMahon, 46, and friends Bryan Maess and Roni Durham all plunged into the frigid water as the larger vessel slammed into their aluminum 20-foot Weldcraft fishing boat.
The incredible moment, which happened last summer, was filmed with a GoPro camera on McMahon’s boat, providing a full glimpse of the fishermen and their futile attempts to wave off a vessel helmed by Marlin Lee Larsen, 75.
Maess, 47, filed a $372,000 suit against Larsen this month, alleging he was distracted while at the helm of his motorboat Aug. 12. Larsen’s son-in-law had warned him about driving the boat while using a cellphone, including that day, according to The Oregonian, citing a sheriff’s report. Larsen told investigators the crash may have occurred because he was sitting down and his view was obscured. He uses a motorized cart to get around, The Oregonian reported.
All three of the fishermen were physically injured, said Josh Lamborn, an attorney representing Durham. He added that his client suffered both hypothermia and psychological trauma. Durham, 57, is an avid salmon fisher but has not returned to a boat since the incident, Lamborn said. She has not filed a suit.
Lamborn has fished the same area at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean and said the high number of fishing boats is well known, making the speed and apparent distraction of Larsen that much more exasperating.
“This is outrageous conduct to say the least,” he said. Had the trio stayed on the boat, an investigator said, they could have been seriously injured or killed.
Larsen has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor crimes of reckless operation of a boat, fourth-degree assault and recklessly endangering the lives of others, The Oregonian reported. It is against the law in Oregon to operate a boat with negligence. Larsen told The Oregonian the allegation of using a cellphone while driving his boat was “fake news.” He could not be immediately reached.
The story has gained attention due to the suit and the recently released video, put forth by the publications Salmon Trout Steelheader and Angling Oregon, the latter of which is a website operated by McMahon. Later in the video, McMahon stresses the importance of wearing life vests. He and Maess were not wearing one. Durham wore one, but it did not inflate, The Oregonian reported.
That could have led to another potential tragedy in the water. Durham cannot swim, her attorney said.