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Rough water, high speed may have combined in fatal Gilpin boat crash

August 14, 2018

Investigators believe a fatal boating accident that happened Sunday in Gilpin may have been caused by rough waters.

Jeffrey Krowchak, 57, of Ligonier was killed when his watercraft crashed on the Allegheny River near Godfrey Landing in Gilpin just after 3 p.m.

Krowchak was transported to Allegheny Valley Hospital after being pulled from the water by other boaters who began CPR. He was pronounced dead just after 4:30 p.m.

The state Fish and Boat Commission is investigating the accident because it happened on the water.

“According to witnesses he lost control of the boat on rough water,” said Col. Corey Britcher with the commission’s law enforcement bureau.

Britcher said investigators don’t know the exact type of boat Krowchak was on because it sank, but witnesses described it as a “racing-type of watercraft.” He was the only person on board when the accident happened.

Britcher said they haven’t determined an official cause of the accident since it’s still under investigation.

An official cause of death of blunt impact injury to the head, neck and torso was released Monday by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. The manner of death is ruled as accidental.

Gilberto Medina, who lives in Florida, but vacations at Godfrey Landing in the summers, said he witnessed the entire accident from his deck.

He said there were several boats in the area creating wakes going in multiple directions and Krowchak had been traveling on the river at a high rate of speed.

“When he hit the convergence of those waves, which was just right about in front of me, his boat hit the water and went up in the air and then straight down backwards,” Medina said. “I could not believe I just saw that--almost like a rocket ship taking off.”

Medina said the other boaters on the water immediately came over to get Krowchak out of the water and called out to the people on land to call 911 because he was unresponsive.

“That boat sunk in three minutes, it went down in no time,” he said. “It was horrendous.”

Medina said he didn’t know Krowchak and it didn’t appear anyone else in the area knew him either.

Britcher cautioned other boaters who may be out on the water this summer.

“It’s very important that people know their craft and know their capabilities,” he said. “Pay attention to the water--the water’s very unforgiving, especially after all the rain we’ve had.”