A pontoon boat that landed halfway onto the lawn of the Village Inn and Tavern in Belgrade Wednesday evening sent diners scattering and left several people with minor injuries.

The accident occurred just after 5:30 p.m., and Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service which investigated the crash, said in a news release it “was kind of a freak thing. It’s remarkable that no one got seriously hurt.”

“It was sort of pandemonium, and people were diving out of the way,” said Village Inn owner Kate Beales, who was sitting with others on the lawn that borders Great Pond when the crash occurred.

She added, “I’ve been coming here to Belgrade Lake my whole life. I’ve never seen anything like this ever.”

The crash happened while occupants of the boat were trying to dock a new 22-foot Harris-brand pontoon boat powered by a 115 horsepower motor, according to MacDonald. The pontoon’s owner, James Julia, 71, of South China, had jumped off to tie the boat to the dock when he realized he had left it in reverse.

Julia is well known in central Maine as the owner of the James D. Julia Inc. auction house in Fairfield. He was not in the office Thursday but his assistant confirmed it was his boat involved in the incident and he was not hurt.

MacDonald said Joseph Larue, 76, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was asked to shut off the engine.

“Larue was inexperienced with boating and inadvertently pushed the throttle forward,” MacDonald said in the release. “This caused the boat to accelerate forward causing him to push the throttle completely forward. The boat then accelerated quickly and caused all three occupants in the boat to be sent backward as the pontoon boat ran up on shore.”

MacDonald said the boat struck a small dinner table and a picnic table, both of which held four people eating dinner.

“A total of four people sustained minor injuries, one boat passenger and three on shore,” MacDonald said in the release. “All four refused medical treatment.”

Beales recalled that the boat was in the process of docking at the inn and she saw the driver disembark and start taking ropes and securing the lines on the dock. Beales said the boat’s engine went into gear very fast.

“It threw it up onto the shore, and the rip-rap prevented it from coming up farther,” Beales said. “It was very scary and people scattered. We’re really lucky no one was seriously hurt. One of the diners was at one of the tables that got knocked over, and she was fine, but she was very close to being under the boat.”

Beales said the inn offers live music on the lawn Wednesday and Sunday evenings, so the lawn was packed with diners and dancers.

Fire and rescue personnel assessed injuries. The boat was later removed under its own power. “It had some damage and dents, but no punctures,” Beales said.

The damage to the lawn was minimal, she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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