Two killed in high-speed boat crash


Kendall Downing

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. - We know now more about that deadly high-speed boat crash on Rend Lake in Franklin County.

Wednesday morning dive teams found the body of that boater who'd been missing since late Tuesday afternoon.

The five people involved had two boats out on the lake. Investigators said those men and women were associated with BRP, a boat manufacturer which has a facility in Benton, Illinois.

Of those five, two were injured and two were killed. One was not hurt.

The St.Louis Medical Examiner's office tells us 41-year-old Teresa Perez died of her injuries at a St.Louis area hospital.

The man found dead this morning is 38-year-old Larry Smithhart of West Melbourne, Florida. Officials said he was a test-driver with the boat company.

Divers pulled his body from the lake Wednesday morning around 11. The preliminary investigation shows both boats were running full throttle Tuesday afternoon when one pulled out in front of the other.

"You don't have a lot of time to react. Boats don't have brakes," said Captain Jerry Hiller, with the IDNR Conservation Police.

Hiller said speed played a role in this crash.

"They're saying probably around 30 yards on shore, the female passenger when it hit land was thrown out of the boat. We found her on land," said Hiller.

A red boat hit another boat. Both people who died were on that other boat. The driver was thrown into the water, but the motor was still engaged.

"The other boat is still on land, and we're going to have to recover it later. It's extensive," said Hiller.

Authorities said all five involved have connections to BRP, a boat-maker with facilities in nearby Benton, Illinois.

The two boats were on a demo run, a practice Hiller said is common.

"We've had boat dealers come to Rend Lake. There's no speed (limit) on Rend Lake, so they can get them here, get on one end of the lake, and then open them up from one end to the other," said Hiller.

Officials hope to wrap up their investigation into the crash next week. IDNR will be in charge of that investigation.

Investigators would not comment on a timetable for when or if any charges could be filed.

BRP released this statement late Wednesday afternoon.

"It is with much sadness that BRP must report that two of our employees and three of Milsco employees, a BRP supplier, were involved in a serious boating accident during a trial ride in Rend Lake located in Benton Illinois yesterday at approximately 3:30 p.m. CST.

Our first employee involved in the accident has sustained non-life threatening injuries.
Regretfully, our second employee, Larry Smithhart from our Palm Bay, Florida facility has
succumbed to his injuries and has passed away.

Sadly, we must also report that Teresa Camargo from Milsco Mexico, has also passed away
due to the severity of her injuries. One of the Milsco employees is currently hospitalized in
stable condition while the other sustained minor injuries and was not hospitalized.

BRP is currently assessing and focused on the needs of the family members and all others
involved. BRP is taking all appropriate actions to meet those needs.

It goes without saying that these events are heartbreaking for all of us and the affected families
and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved."