A passenger on one of two boats that collided on the Colorado River Saturday night says she’s “lucky to be alive” after one person died and three others remain missing when the two recreational boats sank to the bottom of the river.
Taylor Corbino described the “horrific” head-on collision in an interview with “Good Morning America” Tuesday. Her father, on a nearby boat, said a beautiful Labor Day weekend “went to hell” in an instant as he desperately tried to save his daughter and the other passengers.
The recent college graduate said she has no idea what caused the deadly crash, and is just counting herself lucky to be alive.
“I can’t tell you exactly what happened ’cause I don’t even know,” Corbino said. “I was actually sitting in the front of the boat with a friend, and he moved to the back. And he actually ended up staying back there, and they all told me to come back. Thank God I went back.
“We were actually sitting there, I sat next to my friend. We were looking at each other,” she continued. “We were actually talking, and then all of a sudden, I hear, excuse my language, I hear, ‘Oh s—.’ And I look up and next I see the boat, the other boat. And next thing you know, I’m in the water.”
“Well, nothing really was wrong,” Pat Kelly, Corbino’s father, told “GMA.” “We was just turning into Pirate’s Cove [Marina] and our buddy went by us and we were waving at him. And, we seen his lights going on, and then a horrific crash. The river’s all dark, it was totally dark.
“Sounded like a freight train hitting the side of a building,” Kelly added. “It was — it was horrible. So that’s when we went over to it, and we knew what happened.”
Corbino said no one on her boat — all family friends — sensed anything was wrong before it slammed into the other craft.
“We were having a great day. It was a fun day,” she said. “We were eating, we were dancing, we were singing, we were playing games. It was just a really fun day.”
Kelly, who was enjoying a beautiful Saturday on the Colorado River near Moabi Regional Park in California with his friends Dave Dade and his wife Kathy Boelter, said only his friend’s boat had its lights on before the crash, which took place at about 8 p.m.
“Well, it was probably one of the best days on the river ever,” Kelly said. “The adventures going up and down the river — seeing sites, eating lunch. And started heading back maybe a little bit too late, but we started heading back and it got dusk, you know, so that’s when everything went to hell.”
Kelly jumped off his own boat into the water trying to find his daughter. The three all said the lights on their friends’ boat was what helped them find the crash site.
“Pat jumped off the boat, and he ended up on another boat,” Dade said. “I couldn’t find Pat. So his wife was hysterical. All she could say was, ‘Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?'”
Kelly, who had waved to his friends’ boat with his daughter on board, immediately knew she was involved. Corbino, meanwhile, was searching for air.
“I can’t tell you how long I was underwater, but I know that it was long enough to where I couldn’t hold my breath anymore,” she said. “I actually breathed in some water and all I told myself was, ‘Taylor, swim to the top to get some air in.’ I swam to the top and my friend that I was actually sitting next to on the boat, I felt him grab me.”
Her father was still shouting for her through the chaos.
“When it crashed, we were just trying to find her, find anybody, screaming, pandemonium,” Kelly said. “Yeah, it was total chaos — and then I heard her. Somebody said, ‘Taylor’s OK.’ I’m screaming, ‘Where’s Taylor? Where’s Taylor?’ And then we knew she was OK, so we got over to that side, actually seen her before we calmed down. But everybody seemed to be all right.”
Officials said the two boats involved in the crash, a Hallet boat and a Sleekcraft, were carrying 10 people and six people, respectively. All 16 people were ejected when the two crashed. Officials said the boats were going about 50 mph, though Dade said their friends’ boat was not going nearly that fast.
All six people on their friends’ boat survived the accident, they said. Corbino said two days later she is still sore, but otherwise fine.
“I thought I was going to die, yes,” Corbino said. “I thought I was going to drown.”
Boelter described one of the boats flipping and then “the boat was gone.”
“We haven’t talked about it too much,” Corbino said. “I think we’re all still in shock. It hasn’t hit us yet completely. It’s been a very crazy weekend. But when I do talk to ’em about it — we’re all very thankful and blessed to be alive. We shouldn’t be alive.”
Kelly’s boat was about 50 yards from the accident, and they immediately rushed — still unaware what their friends’ boat hit — to the scene to help. Dade called the accident scene “chaos.”
“People screaming, yelling, ‘My baby,’ ‘Where is this?,’ It was just total chaos,” he said. “And while we’re going into the crash site, there was debris everywhere. And I was afraid to roll the boat up ’cause I didn’t wanna chop somebody up [with the propeller], bodies.”
“We didn’t even know it was another boat till we heard other people screaming,” Kelly echoed.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, which has been conducting the search operations for the three boaters still missing, called off the effort late Monday and said it will begin again Tuesday morning. Over 30 law enforcement divers have covered five miles of the river from Park Moabi Channel to the Topock Gorge.
Authorities said overnight Sunday, in the hours following the crash, that some survivors had been swept over a mile downstream by the quick-moving currents.
“It’s very tragic,” Dade said “I just hear that sound and that screaming. It’s just 24 hours a day. It’s something that I would never want to see again. Never.”