KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — An explosion of a personal watercraft that injured a 15-year-old teen at a Tippecanoe Lake marina in May has resulted in a lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages.
Evan Tucker Campbell, a minor and through his parents, Darren and Nancy Campbell have filed a complaint for damages against Shortsleeve Motorsports LLC, Upland. There is no dollar amount sought in the complaint, but the Campbells are seeking a jury trial and a financial amount that will reasonably and fairly compensate them for the losses and damages incurred.
Court documents, filed in Kosciusko Superior Court 1 state May 28, after the Campbells had a PWC serviced multiple times at ShortSleeve, it was taken out on Tippecanoe Lake. After filling it with gasoline at a marina, the machine failed to start. After several attempts to start the machine, the PWC ignited and exploded, severely burning the 15-year-old. It is noted in court documents the teen did possess a boaters’ license.
The suit states the Campbells purchased a new PWC from ShortSleeve July 10, 2015, and regularly had it winterized and serviced at that location. The watercraft was winterized by ShortSleeve in the fall of 2017 with no reported problems. At the start of the 2018 summer season, May 14, the Campbells had the PWC serviced by ShortSleeve for summer use. After the work was finished Darren Campbell took the PWC to Tippecanoe Lake to launch, however, it was “running rough” and the steering did not function properly.
The PWC was taken back to ShortSleeve for service. An employee inspected the machine and apologized, realizing he had forgotten to properly hook up the steering apparatus. That employee also noted something wrong with the spark plugs. Acknowledging those problems should have been caught before and the company agreed to fix the steering cable and replace the spark plugs at no cost.
The PWC was picked up and brought to Tippecanoe Lake May 28. The teen took the PWC out on the lake to ensure the steering was fixed and reported it ran well. He then took it to the marina near the boat ramp at Tippe Dance Hall. Documents note to access the fuel cap, the seat has to be removed. A marina attendant filled the PWC with one-half tank of gasoline.
Court documents state after the gas was put in the tank, the gas cap and seat replaced, the teen tried to start the PWC, but it would not start. He attempted to start the machine several times and the marina owner also attempted. The teen continued to push the ignition switch and on one attempt, an explosion occurred in the area of the engine compartment. The 15-year-old suffered thermal injuries to the left side of his left leg and arm.
Tucker was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital, Fort Wayne, where he received medical care at the burn center. “The explosion caused severe physical and mental injuries to Tucker, among other damages.” His parents also incurred significant medical costs.
Campbells allege ShortSleeve was negligent in living up to the duty to service, winterize and repair the PWC in a workmanlike manner and to notice during its servicing of the PWC if it was at unreasonable risk of exploding. The suit also notes a breach of contract when May 28 the company failed to properly and safely service the PWC and prepare it for summer use and because of that breach of contract Tucker suffered serious physical injury and the PWC was damaged.