Audrey Matherne was in her house Sunday evening when she thought it had exploded.
“All of a sudden I heard a big boom and I thought my house exploded or someone hit the telephone pole,” said the 81-year-old resident of Bayou Gauche. “When I went out, a boat was in my tree, but before it the tree it hit my house.”
The boat traveled more than 30 feet from bayou to Matherne’s house, her home of 64 years.
“There were a bunch of party poopers who ride the fast boats and they were playing a game in the water,” she recounted. “One of the boats took off and hydroplaned and flew over the road and hit my house. It wiped out my stairway. From there, a lot of people were at the bar (Fisherman’s Wharf) and came over and see.”
It was the first time she’d ever had a boat in her house.
“They need to be more careful,” Matherne said of the many weekends she’s observed boats racing on the bayou. “The bayou is like the road, you’ve got to be watching for other people.”
According to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, the vessel had two passengers that sped out of Bayou Gauche, across Highway 306 and into Matherne’s house around 7 p.m. Sunday.
A woman was reportedly driving the boat with a juvenile male passenger, said District Lt. Jason Russo with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.
“At some point, the vessel lost control and the operator was ejected,” Russo said. “The juvenile, under his own power, jumped from the vessel.”
Russo declined to name them with the wreck under investigation, but he did say the woman is from the Houma area. The juvenile was taken to St. Charles Parish Hospital where he was treated and released. Matherne, the one occupant of the house at the time, was not injured.
“The collision indicates a high rate of speed, but I can not comment on whether or not it was excessive,” Russo said. “We do not have speed limits on the water, but there are guidelines.”
Russo said the boat, a fiberglass race boat, apparently impacted the shoreline, crossed the highway and struck the residence. The house was damaged with broken railing and exterior damage.
If the boat operator is found at fault, she could face similar charges to those of the road such as careless operation up to vehicular homicide, he said. Waterway laws in Louisiana are similar to traffic laws so the Wildlife & Fisheries can find someone criminally at fault if found to be abusive.
In this wreck, the boat was in a no wake zone, which means in this area of waterway a boat is required to travel in such a manner as to not create a hazardous wake, which typically indicates the need for an idle speed. These zones are designated by the parish.