SHERRILLS FORD – A nine-year-old boy died June 20 around 4:15 p.m. following the collision of two personal watercraft in a cove off Camp Dogwood Drive in the Mountain Creek area of eastern Catawba County. 

The watercraft carrying the boy also held his 15-year-old sister, who was treated at Catawba Valley Medical Center before being sent to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for injuries, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission law enforcement officers Allen Carlisle and Carson Rogers. 

"When they pulled (the 15-year-old) out of the water, she said, 'What accident?'" Rogers said. "I don't know what part of her head got hit exactly, but it traumatized her pretty well." 

Two of their other siblings, a 10-year-old and 14-year-old, were on the other watercraft, Rogers said, but neither sustained injuries needing medical treatment. They were thrown into the water following the crash. 

Rogers said it appeared the 15-year-old slowed down to let the 14-year-old catch up with her. But the 14-year-old didn't realize the other watercraft had stopped, causing the crash that killed the 9-year-old on impact while he sat waiting. 

The siblings were visiting their grandfather at the time.  

The children's names are not expected to be released, but Carlisle said they were operating the watercraft safely. Rogers added both had undergone an online boating safety course through the state.

"Obviously with the online version, you don't get the hands-on teaching," Rogers said. "You could have someone else take it for you, and put your name on it. There's no safeguard against that. It's not going to impart the same knowledge as sitting down with the instructor and book and having hands-on experience." 

While the state certificiation process doesn't require students to get actual boating experience, Rogers said, he believed the juveniles involved had completed the course themselves.