CROSS, SC (WCSC) - A death-defying accident at the Santee Cooper Dam Monday has a Cross, South Carolina man calling for improved safety at the spillway.
"Lake Moultrie I call a man eater because the wind'll get rough, flip your boat and kill you," Richie Wimmer said. "Lake Marion is a prop eater 'cause you'll hit a stump and tear your boat up. I thought I was in a safe place to be that day."
A prize-winning fisherman, Wimmer almost lost his life Monday morning. His pontoon boat was pulled to the Santee spillway, and three people onboard managed to scramble onto the dam's concrete pads. But Wimmer landed in the water, under his boat.
"The boat flipped with me in it and the whole thing just disintegrated and Don was screaming for me to give him my hand and he pulled me up," Wimmer said.
Wimmer said he had checked the dam spill rate before hitting the water that morning.
"The rate was 75-thousand cubic feet a second on their phone number that morning, which is no problem," Wimmer said. He believes workers were increasing the spill rate while his boat was making his second pass by the dam.
"In a matter of seconds it sucked us into the dam," he said. "I was in full throttle reverse with the boat and it didn't phase it. We probably hit the dam going 10 to 11 miles an hour."
He contends workers did not sound the alarm to notify boaters of the spillage increase and said the accident report from the South Carolina Public Service Authority is full of mistakes.
"They were shocked when we climbed across the top of the dam wanting to know where we came from," he said.
Wimmer said he asked about dam surveillance cameras, believing video would clearly show what happened. But he said he was told the cameras aren't working. Wimmer said he was well outside the part of the lake marked off by buoys. Now he suggests those markers be moved.
"If they're gonna pull that much water, them things need to be out a half a mile," Wimmer said. "They're not safe the way they're set up."