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Rules of the Lake
Water enthusiasts enjoy a sunny day on Lake George in this file photo. After the deaths of two small boat users in the last two weeks, law enforcement officials are reminding boaters that the smallest vessel has the right of way and that all water goers, especially those using small vessels, should wear life jackets.

Police have found evidence that a motorboat blamed for capsizing two kayaks Wednesday afternoon struck one of the kayaks, authorities said on Thursday.

Warren County Sheriff Bud York said blue paint was found on the hull of the powerboat, and damage to the kayak was found that was consistent with a collision with the boat.

"We feel there was some sort of contact between the boats," York said.

The body of the man who was in the kayak, and who died after the apparent collision, showed three lacerations consistent with getting hit by a boat, York said.

An autopsy was performed Thursday on the victim - Peter Snyder, 63, of Troy - and it determined he drowned but also suffered a broken neck and lacerations to his neck and back. Coroner Dr. Michael Sikrica concluded the cuts were likely from a boat propeller.

The driver of the 22-foot, 225-horsepower Key West powerboat - Donald Peltier, 73, of Queensbury - was charged with reckless operation, a misdemeanor. He was released pending prosecution in Queensbury Town Court.

York said his office discussed the matter with the Warren County District Attorney's Office, and no further charges were anticipated against Peltier. He took a breath test for alcohol use, and it came back negative.

Snyder and his wife, Bonita Hagan, 63, of Troy, were kayaking south between Long Island and Elizabeth Island shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday when both of their 14-foot kayaks capsized as a boat driven by Peltier passed by or over them.

"I think the boat went right over the center of the kayak," the sheriff said.

Both kayakers were tossed into the water, and Snyder did not resurface. He was reportedly a good swimmer. Hagan told police she tried to grab his head as he sank in the water, and he seemed to be unconscious, officials said.

Neither was wearing a life jacket, although both had them in their kayaks, police said. York said the use of life jackets might have led to a different outcome.

Hagan told police she and Snyder saw the boat approaching, and raised their paddles to try to warn him, according to York.

Police said Peltier told them he did not know he had hit a kayak, but stopped his boat after he heard the kayakers yell and jumped into the water to try to rescue Snyder. Peltier was treated at Glens Falls Hospital for hypothermia and was released.

Hagan was rescued by two contractors - Ken Corlew of Fort Ann and Jim Denton of Lake George - who were working at a home on the shore. The men got into a boat when they heard Hagan yelling and motored out to pull her to safety. She was not hurt.

Hagan went out on a police boat at about 6 p.m. to show divers where the collision happened and, within an hour or so, divers found Snyder's body at the bottom of the lake in 53 feet of water.

York said the kayaks were heading south on the lake, while Peltier was going east.

Peltier told police he was going slowly because the boat is new, and its engine should not be revved too high. When a powerboat goes slowly, its bow is sometimes raised, affecting the captain's sight line.

Snyder and Hagan were staying at a relative's home on the lake in Cleverdale, police said.

The lake was calm when the kayakers set out, but when it turned choppy, they turned around to head back to the home in Cleverdale where they were staying.

"It was a pretty rough day at the time this happened," said sheriff's Patrol Officer Scott Rawson, one of the department's boat patrol officers.

York said police had information the couple had kayaked three or four times before. Peltier has boated for 50 years.

"He said he's probably never going to boat again," York said.


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