The driver of a 30-foot speedboat died and three of his companions were injured Sunday when the craft unexpectedly slammed into a wave in a freak accident about half a mile off Emerald Bay, authorities said.
Adam Zipp, 48, of Newport Beach was putting his Scarab racing boat through its paces with friends about 2:30 p.m. and traveling at a high rate of speed when it hit the ocean swell, catching everyone on board off guard and causing him to lose control, said Lt. Fred Lisanti of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
No one was tossed overboard but the impact "sent everybody on the boat flying," Lisanti said, adding that Zipp also might have made a right turn just as the swell hit.
Zipp was thrown from his cockpit to the floor of the boat and suffered severe injuries, although it was not immediately known if they caused his death, Lisanti said. He might have died of a heart attack during the incident, Lisanti said.
"He sustained some fairly significant injuries, but at this point we're not sure if they were the actual cause of death," Lisanti said.
A spokeswoman for the Orange County coroner's office said an autopsy will be performed today.
Scott Diederich, a Laguna Beach lifeguard who was working Sunday, heard the call to the Coast Guard for help and drove to the south end of Emerald Bay, where he paddled a rescue surfboard out toward the distressed boat. By radio, Diederich summoned another boat to come in and pick him up and take him to the Scarab.
When he arrived, four other boats were also at the scene, having either heard the call for help or actually seen the accident, Diederich said. A Newport Beach Fire Department boat dispatched from Newport Harbor arrived about the same time, he said.
"Everyone aboard was distraught and upset, and some of the civilians were administering CPR," said Diederich, 30, a marine safety lieutenant.
By the time help arrived, Zipp was in full cardiac arrest, Lisanti said. He was revived and taken to the Harbor Patrol facility in Newport Beach and then to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, where he died, Lisanti said.
The three others aboard all suffered an array of cuts, chest and head injuries, but none were considered serious, Lisanti said. They included Melissa Bail, 26, of Palos Verdes, who received cuts to her head; Rod Steel, 35, of Aliso Viejo, who suffered head and chest injuries; and Leslie McCoy, 39, of San Diego, who received minor nicks and cuts to his body.
It was not known if they were wearing seat belts, Diederich said.
Lisanti said there was another boat along for the ride with the Scarab. The victim was giving some of the other boaters rides and "showing them what his boat was like" when the accident occurred.
After the accident, the Scarab, called Vitessy, was towed to Newport Beach for temporary storage, Diederich said.
Accidents of this type are not that unusual, particularly among inexperienced boaters, Diederich said.
"Boating accidents do occur all up and down our coast and in all the waterways of the state," Diederich said. "People go boating and sometimes their skills are rusty. They are often used to a car, and a boat does not function like a car. It reacts totally different."
Because the ocean surface was generally calm and flat Sunday, the Scarab might have hit a boat wake, Diederich said.