50-foot powerboat struck Venice woman near the south jetty on Labor Day

Nicole Willett, chief of staff for L.A.’s Department on Disability, was pronounced dead at the scene
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A Venice woman kayaking in Marina del Rey Harbor on Labor Day was struck and killed by a 50-foot powerboat near the south jetty, but investigators have yet to find any evidence that speeding or alcohol played a role in the crash.

The victim has been identified as 46-year-old Nicole Willett, chief of staff for the city of Los Angeles’ Department on Disability, City News Service has reported.

The crash occurred at around 1:10 p.m. on Monday and Willett was pronounced dead at the scene, said Lt. Deryl Walker of the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station.

Homicide detectives and the Marina del Rey Harbor Patrol are still investigating the collision, but have not made any citations or arrests.

“We don’t have any evidence of a crime, or that the people in the boat were operating recklessly,” Walker said. “So far it looks like a traffic accident.”

According to television news reports, the occupants of the boat were a couple in their 60s who didn’t realize what happened until nearby boaters alerted them to the crash.

Over the past several years, boaters in Marina del Rey have expressed safety concerns about sharing the water with an increasing number of paddleboarders and kayakers, many of them new to the water.

“I don’t think I’m being overdramatic — when talking with other boaters, they all have stories of at least one close encounter,” an Argonaut guest columnist wrote in August of last year.

While larger vessels pose a greater risk to smaller craft in that big boats can’t hit the brakes like a car, it falls on paddleboarders to hug the shoreline and avoid lingering in the middle of the channel.

Everyone who rents a kayak from Pro Sup Shop at Marina Beach is given a tutorial on how to use it safely in the ocean, said general manager and lead instructor Michael Vaughn Sr.

High on the list: “Kayakers should stay out of boat traffic,” he said.

— Gary Walker and Joe Piasecki

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