The Iowa State University Crew Club has opened up about the recent boating accident that left two members dead, stating that unexpectedly strong winds caused their boat to flip over before any of them could reach the shore.
Crew Club President Alexis Aurandt said that the team followed established safety precautions, as no one was allowed to go into the water if winds were greater than 14 miles per hour (mph). With weather forecasts predicting winds of 11 to 14 mph that day, the team drove to Little Wall Lake to see if they could go ahead with their practice.
Aurandt recalled that upon their arrival the lake was “like glass” with small ripples. They released the boat into the water at around 8:45 am but were met with stronger winds 15 minutes later.
They were suddenly surrounded by foot-high waves, so Aurandt had to direct the team to return to shore. However, as they were attempting to return, a powerful wave hit the boat and capsized it.
“There was no way to correct for it. I remember hearing frantic breathing. I told everyone to breathe and to comprehend what just happened,” Aurandt said.
The club president revealed that crew members involved in the incident did not have life jackets but had all passed swimming tests. Most were able to reach safety, but 20-year-old sophomore Yaakov Ben-David and 19-year-old freshman Derek Nanni were not able to be rescued.
Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Timmons said that winds had reached 20 to 25 mph when authorities arrived at the lake.
Investigations into the accident are ongoing, and state officials will also undertake a safety review of all the school’s 55 sports clubs. Meanwhile, Iowa State has reported that USRowing will also conduct a review of the accident and look into the club’s safety procedures.