Woman dies in Waverunner demonstration accident

A 20-year-old Oroville woman who was taking a Polaris Waverunner personal watercraft out for a test ride died April 28 after she fell off and apparently was run over by the machine.

Jenean Rodgers, the mother of a 2-year-old girl, was taking part in a factory-sponsored demonstration. Anyone at the Afterbay that day, said Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jerry Smith, could take a promotional test ride after a short demonstration on the operation of the watercraft.

“It sounds kind of crazy, but I guess that’s what they were doing,” Smith said.

Polaris, a Minnesota-based company, and Glende Polaris, a Chico dealer of the watercraft, sponsored the event.

Rodgers took the test ride along with three friends and was turning tight circles on the surface of the water with them when someone noticed that she had fallen into the water and her Waverunner was still going. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Rodgers was unconscious, and a friend was holding her head above water.

She was pronounced dead at Oroville Hospital a short time later.

Ron Bills, general manager of Polaris’ watercraft division, said he was “deeply saddened” by the accident.

“This is just a horrible thing to have happen,” he said. “We’re all just horrified, and our thoughts and prayers are with the young lady’s family.”

Bills said promotional events like the one held Saturday are common in the watercraft industry, and that company personnel “do their best” to inform test riders of exactly how to use the machines, which can travel at speeds up to 60 mph.

Polaris is cooperating with the sheriff’s office to determine the cause of the accident, Bills said, and will open an investigation of its own into it.

“We want to know what happened out there,” he said. “It’s all just very sad.”

The Chico dealer had no comment.