Same Accident, Same Reservoir

Published on August 8th, 2017

A fatal sailboat accident this past weekend in east Texas recalled a 1982 incident in which a Longview attorney was killed when his boat’s mast also hit a power line at the same reservoir – Lake O’ the Pines.

G. Brockett Irwin, a prominent Longview lawyer who helped found the Longview Yacht Club, died just before Christmas Day in 1982 after his boat’s mast hit a power line at night near Johnson Creek. Three other Longview attorneys on the boat at the time — Steve Kattner, David Brabham and Jim Moore — survived.

In the recent accident on August 5, two Boy Scouts were killed at the scene on Alley Creek. A third died later at a Shreveport medical center.

The 1982 accident occurred when the four men were crossing the lake en route to a catfish restaurant on the north side of a cove. Officials later said the lake level had been higher than usual, and Brabham said at the time that Irwin’s boat “had the tallest mast of any boat on the lake.”

Kattner, recalling the incident, said he didn’t realize at the time what had happened. He remembers Irwin reaching down to an outboard motor on the back of the boat and was electrocuted as soon as he touched the motor.

Kattner, who was standing at the center of the boat, said the power arced off the main mast, causing a stream of electricity to hit him in the upper left shoulder.

The electricity “burns a hole in the jacket, burns a hole in my arm, runs down my left arm and pops out my left hand,” Kattner said. “That’s what saved me is it went from my left shoulder to my left hand as opposed to going across my body.”

Kattner was knocked into the water, while Brabham and Moore jumped off the boat when they realized what was happening. The trio were picked up by another boat a few minutes later.

According to a 1984 report in the Longview News-Journal, danger buoys had been placed in the area around the power lines. Kattner said he couldn’t remember if anything else was done to prevent future tragedies, but he and Irwin’s widow filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative.

That lawsuit alleged the power lines were too low and that an emergency shut-off system failed to kill the line when the boat struck it, Kattner said. The lawsuit was settled without a trial.

Following the weekend accident, Kattner said he was surprised when he learned of latest incident, especially because it sounded almost identical to the one he survived, except for the time of day.

“Who would think it?” he said.

Source: Longview News-Journal

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