Tragedy on Day One

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A two-boat collision that left one angler dead and led to the air evacuation of three others marred the first day of the McDonald's Big Bass Splash on Lake Fork out of Alba, Texas.

ESPNOutdoors.com photographer Tim Ables reported that two boats carrying two competitors each collided during fishing hours Friday.

"One boat T-boned the other right on the driver's side. Four people were air-lifted to a hospital. One man died just two or three hours ago," Ables said around 8 p.m. ET Friday.

A dispatcher with the Wood County Sheriff's Department said Game Warden Kurt Kelly is in charge of the investigation, but calls to Kelly were not immediately returned.

Jerry Thompson of Toledo Bend, La., holds the first-day lead with a 10.69-pound bass, while Dan Hawthorn of Gilmer, Texas, is in second place with an 8.30-pounder.

The event promises a guaranteed payback of $400,000 in cash and prizes, with first prize winning a 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie and a Triton TR21 bass boat powered by a 225 Mercury Optimax and equipped with Minn Kota, Lowrance and Navionics.

Hourly cash prizes, starting at $1,000, are awarded to 12th place. Anglers can also win a boat in an exact weight contest and there are elimination drawings, early bird drawings or open drawing.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Web Site, 710 people died in boating incidents in 2006, but boating fatalities have decreased over the past decade due in part to increased use of life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD).

In 2006, 3,474 persons were reported injured in boating incidents and 710 died. Among those who drowned, nine out of 10 were not wearing life jackets. It is not known if the anglers involved in the incident were wearing life jackets.