What was supposed to be a relaxing evening for a couple cruising Lake Hopatcong on a pontoon boat turned into a terrifying ordeal on Monday when a speedboat slammed into the vessel and flew into a boating accident with unusual hit and run.
“It was like out of a movie, it looked like this boat was coming to pick us up,” said Lisa Pechmiller, who was sent flying in the crash with Jon Richman.
The Minneapolis, Minnesota couple were in Sussex County visiting Richman’s brother when they decided to take the pontoon boat out after dinner with their 3-year-old dog. There weren’t many others on the lake that night, Penchmiller said. Still, the couple didn’t venture far and stayed closer to the outer edges of the lake, she said.
Richman put the pontoon boat in neutral so the couple could sit and admire the night sky.
The white speedboat came out of nowhere.
Pechmiller turned his head to say something to Richman and noticed the ship coming straight at them at an alarming speed, with no signs of slowing down or turning to avoid them.
The impact threw the couple and their dog onto the floor of the boat. Richman’s phone flew off the boat.
In shock, Penchmiller yelled, “He didn’t stop. He didn’t stop,” as she watched the boat speed away with its lights now off.
Richman tried to follow the speedboat, but the damage to the pontoon was extensive and the engine stalled in the middle of the lake.
Stranded, the couple dialed 911 at 9:33 p.m. and good Samaritans on the lake came to their rescue, helping to tow the crippled pontoon boat to its dock.
The couple were slightly injured. Richman has a nasty gash in his back. Their dog is unharmed. But it could have been much worse, they said.
“Breakfast was really good the next morning,” Richman said.
New Jersey State Police are appealing for help locating the person operating the speedboat, which also likely has visible damage from the crash. Last Friday there was no new information.
The whole incident left Pechmiller and Richman shaken, but grateful to be alive.
They aren’t necessarily mad at the boater who hit them, but they would like them to be held accountable. And based on the boater’s behavior — driving so recklessly and so fast — Richman said he fears something like this could happen again.
“He did it once and got away with it,” Richman said, adding that the gender of the other boater was unclear. It was too dark to make out who was behind the wheel.
The boat that rescued Richman and Penchmiller that night had a father and two children on board – “What if it was those three?” Richman asked.
State police released a photo of the type of speedboat believed to have been involved in the accident.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the State Police Bureau of Marine Services at 973-663-3400. Tips can be given anonymously.
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Jackie Roman can be contacted at email@example.com.