A 13 year-old Fresno boy, David Flores, was killed and his 16 year-old aunt, Julissa Valenzuela of Houston, Texas, was seriously injured in a boating accident on Bass Lake at about 4:30 p.m., June 27.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office investigation has revealed that the children, along with the boy’s father, were riding an inflatable intertube pulled behind a pontoon boat, when they were struck by a waverunner (jet ski) driven by a San Jose man in his 50s. Two passengers were on the waverunner with the driver.
The operator of the waverunner, whose name was not released, was questioned by detectives at the scene but was not arrested. Alcohol does not seem to be a factor in the accident, although the investigation will continue to determine if criminal negligence was a factor. If that is found to be the case, he could be charged with manslaughter.
The waverunner was not in one of the three designated waverunner areas on the lake at the time of the accident.
Although the exact speed of the waverunner at the time of the accident is unknown, the sheriff’s office said witnesses told investigators it was traveling “very fast.” Waverunners, also called personal water craft, weigh about 750 pounds, generally have about 100+ horsepower, and can travel up to 45 mph.
The sheriff’s department first reported that the proper flagging was apparently being displayed by the operator of the boat to warn other boaters that there were people in the water, prior to the jet ski striking the pair. But after further investigation, the department now says no caution flag was raised or required since the boat was underway, with the three riders on the intertube at the time of the impact.
Responding to the accident near Miller’s Landing Resort was Cal Fire, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, and Sierra Ambulance.
According to the sheriff’s department, deputies assigned to the lake boat patrol unit were the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, where they found the boy, girl, and boy’s father in the water after being struck by a waverunner (jet ski).
Several trained medical personnel were in the area when the accident occurred and immediately began rendering aid to the two children. Despite their efforts, the 13-year-old boy was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Valenzuela was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno with traumatic head injuries. Although in critical condition, as of Monday she had come out of a coma, was responsive, and recognized family members.
A GoFundMe online account has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses for Flores, and a second account has been established to assist with medical expenses for Valenzuela. (For Flores, http://www.gofundme.com/y3yd98; for Valenzuela, http://www.gofundme.com/y42k4s).
A close friend of the Flores family, Justine Wood, posted on the GoFundMe page that she had the honor and privilege of watching the birth of David, and his loss leaves a huge hole in her heart and in the hearts of many many others.
“The entire family are some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and are the type of family to give their very last dollar or shirt off their back to help someone in need,” Wood said.
Michelle Miller of Miller’s Landing Resort, said resort staff does everything they can to educate those who rent water craft from the resort on the safe operation of the boats and wave runners.
“People believe in their heart of hearts that they’re experts,” Miller said. “And that may not be the case. I don’t think the driver of the waverunner understood that when you let off the gas on a waverunner, it doesn’t stop ... it keeps going.”