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Thirty-five people were safely evacuated Sunday from a three-deck party boat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir after a sudden onslaught of high winds, accompanied by 6 to 12-foot waves, caused the Friendship to lose engine power and take on water.
No injuries were reported in the mishap.
National Weather Service officials said the brush of bad weather about 4:30 p.m. was "just a typical thunderstorm."
But some of those aboard the Friendship said it didn't seem typical to them when the boat began to sing about 400 yards from shore.
"The winds just started blowing real hard and the storm rolled in. It was all pretty fast," said Andy Hardin, 24, of Jackson. "The captain did a good job of keeping everybody calm and everything. He did all he could do."
Chris Williams, who was piloting the party boat when the storm hit, declined to comment on the incident.
Hardin said Williams tried for about "20 minutes to keep the boat from being blown against the rocks" before losing engine power.
When the boat began to take on water, private boats from the reservoir area assisted in evacuating the vessel. The boat was vacated in about 10 to 15 minutes, said Herman Baker, 45, of Jackson, who was aboard the boat with his wife, Nora.
"It was just a lot of people moving real fast," Baker said.
"The got all the women and children off first," said Mrs. Baker. "I didn't want to get off at first, because I didn't want to leave my husband, and it seemed that the boat was going to be all right."
At least six to eight other craft also ran into trouble on the reservoir Sunday when a swift moving line of thunderstorms hit the area, reservoir officials said.
"It was just one of those freak deals," said Freddie Overby, an officer with the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
"The captain had checked the weather service and they didn't have anything showing up on the radar, but here the winds were 50 to 60 mph," he said.
Overby said two catamarans were blown from the water against the rocks and completely over Spillway Road near The Breakers condominiums during the sudden burst of rough weather.
The Friendship, built and owned by the Rev. Edward Balser, last capsized about six years ago with almost 200 Callaway High School students aboard for a prom night party.
The June 3, 1980, incident happened when nearly all of the students aboard the vessel ran to its rear, causing it to dip and take on water.
The students reportedly had run to the same side of the top two decks of the boat to watch as a powerboat passed the vessel. The boat has since been completely renovated.
An earlier picture of the Friendship Boat
Storm Swamps Reservoir Party Boat
Originally printed in the Clarion Ledger on July 28, 1986
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The Sinking of the Friendship Boat
The Friendship sinking in the Ross Barnett Reservoir on July 27, 1986
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