Cameron Guilbeaux believes a fatal boat accident just off of Dauphin Island late Friday, July 22, could have been avoided, and now he’s doing something about it.
In a statement released the following day, Alabama State Trooper spokesperson Jeremy Burkett wrote that the single-vessel crash occurred at 11:30 p.m. Friday when the boat hit a concrete barrier near the Dauphin Island airport. Quinton E. Zirlott, 22, of Theodore, was ejected from the vessel and killed. Four others, including the boat operator and three other passengers, were injured and transported to USA Health University Hospital.
The concrete barrier the boat ran into was part of the airport’s runway, which sticks out into the water. While there are lights on it, they were not being used at the time. Guilbeaux, who knew some of the victims in the latest crash, is seeking to change that, through a change.org petition.
“Everybody knows how dangerous it is to take a boat at night in the area,” he said. “It’s a dark area. The whole area needs to be lit up.”
The petition created by Guilbeaux simply asks if signers agree that the runway lights should be on at all times when it’s dark. Currently, the lights only come on when a plane is about to land.
“The only time the runway lights come on is when a plane is using it,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 6,200 signatures, eclipsing its original goal of 5,000. Guilbeaux is now asking for 7,500.
Guilbeaux acknowledges the petition “took off,” securing almost 5,000 signatures within the first 14 hours it was created.
“I am surprised,” he said. “I expected to get a good bit of support, but it took off way more than I expected.”
Friday’s wreck that resulted in Zirlott’s death was not the first time a boat has struck the concrete barrier. Guilbeaux said it has happened several times and is easy to fix.
“This is something that could have been easily avoided,” he said. “This is something that could have happened to anyone and something that shouldn’t have happened.”
Boaters pass through the area in question regularly because it’s near the location of a popular boat launch, Guilbeaux said. It’s the area where the Gulf Coast Fishing Rodeo takes place, but that happens during daylight hours.
The goal for Guilbeaux is to get the runway lighted as soon as possible.
“I want the airport to be visible,” he said. “I want it to be safe for boaters and airplanes.”
Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier agrees, and he believes leadership at the county, which owns the airport, is listening to the public’s concerns.
“I’ve spoken with the airport manager and the County Commission and offered my support to take a look at it,” he said. “Let’s see if improvements can be made to make it safer.”
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