Woman paralyzed in boat crash among those calling for changes to Lorain breakwall

LORAIN, Ohio - A woman paralyzed in a boat crash along a Lorain breakwall is among those calling for enhancements to nighttime visibility after another crash killed two people there last week.

Boaters contend the detached breakwall in Lorain Harbor can be practically invisible on dark nights.

Neither federal organization tasked with breakwall -- or breakwater -- safety has pledged to make any changes where the crash occurred, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard each indicating the other is responsible.

The crash, which occurred after the Lorain fireworks display on July 4th, killed Timothy Moore, 54, and Penny Nickeson, 49.

Penny Nickeson, 49. and Timothy Moore, 54

For Dianna Lawson, 61, of Berea, it stirred up bad memories.

"I was devastated. I was sad. I was angry," she said. "It just breaks my heart that that happened. It didn't have to happen."

Lawson was left quadriplegic after a similar nighttime crash in the same place in 1990. She spent four months in the hospital and was paralyzed for life. She uses a wheelchair.

"I was devastated for three years. I didn't care if I lived or died. I cried and cried for three years," she said. "All the simple little things in life that people take for granted, I can't do anymore."

Lawson said she thinks something must be done to improve the breakwall's visibility, suggesting additional lighting or fluorescent paint.

Her husband, Dave, said he was looking for the breakwall in the moments leading up to the crash.

"I was looking for an invisible breakwall," he said. "It's ridiculous they haven't done something. How many people have to be killed and maimed before something is done?"

Chief Bobby Nash, with U.S. Coast Guard District 9, said the agency is responsible for maintaining navigation lights in the area and all are within standards. He said an Aids to Navigation Team checked the lights -- including three on the breakwall -- after the crash, and all were working properly.

He said additional lighting and markings are the responsibility of the Lorain Port Authority and U.S. Army Crops of Engineers.

Michael Izard-Carroll, Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, said lighting of navigation structures "is the responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard, where applicable."

In response to questions from FOX 8 News about whether the Army Corps is considering lighting or structural changes to improve visibility other than navigation lights, Izard-Carroll said in a statement that any changes to the breakwater would involve close coordination between both organizations.

"We are open to having this type of discussion should the U.S. Coast Guard wish to pursue it," he said in the statement, adding that the Army Corps would work with the Coast Guard regarding specific needs the Coast Guard has.

"We have no specific plans at this time to alter the breakwater and have not heard from the USCG with respect to the Lorain breakwater in particular," Izard-Carroll said in the statement.

He said the Army Corps encourages active boater safety and extra care at night, including the use of navigation systems.

Lorain Port Authority Director Tom Brown said his agency has been flooded with calls suggesting improvements, but the breakwall is an Army Corps structure.

Dianna Lawson said if nothing changes, she fears boaters' lives will continue to be at risk.

"If that break wall was lit, I would not be be sitting here like this," she said.

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