Increasingly around the country juries are not buying defendants arguments that boating accidents while under the influence of alcohol should somehow be excused because a boat was involved. In two cases reported here, juries deliberated just a couple of hours before turning thumbs down. And then in both cases judges sentenced the convicted boat drivers to long prison vacations. Happy cruising fellas. There have been enough boating tragedies involving drunk boaters, they happen every week in the summertime, all boats need to have a designated driver when returning from a party. Pass the word on.
15 Years for DUI Manslaughter
After deliberating for three hours, a jury last Thursday evening decided a Clearwater, FL man was responsible for the death of a 21-year-old friend who was killed in a boating accident two years ago.
A judge immediately sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
The defendant was on trial on a charge of boating under the influence-manslaughter. Prosecutors said he had a blood alcohol level more than twice the level at which the state presumes impairment when his 16-foot Hydrosport crashed into a boat at anchor on Lake Tarpon.
The defendant’s roommate was mauled by the boat’s propeller, which slashed her chest and nearly severed her arm. The roommate died 10 days after the accident.
According to prosecutors, the defendant (now convicted) was operating the boat’s throttle as his daughter, who was 10 years old at the time, steered the boat that evening.
20 Years for DUI Assault in Wyoming
A jury, also last Thursday, found a Casper Wyoming man guilty of two counts of aggravated assault for his role in a boat accident last spring that left four people seriously injured.
The defendant, 31, was also found guilty of boating under the influence.
The jury of seven men and five women needed roughly two hours to reach a verdict. The defendant, standing with his attorney, showed no emotion when the announcement was made. The defendant, the boat’s owner, and four other people were aboard the vessel when it struck a Fremont Canyon wall at Alcova Reservoir. Everyone aboard suffered severe injuries.
The defendant, an Army veteran, faces more than 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced.
The prosecutor began his closing argument by describing how the boating trip began, the group met and were drinking at a Casper car wash before deciding to take the defendant’s boat to the reservoir. They stopped for vodka on the way, the prosecutor said.
Once at the reservoir, the prosecutor said, the already intoxicated defendant had trouble backing his boat into the water. “What’s common sense tell you?” the prosecutor said. “This is going to end bad.”
The prosecutor reiterated to jurors how numerous witnesses testified during the trial about the defendant’s erratic driving of the boat.
Witnesses said the boat suffered two malfunctions, an engine problem and the steering wheel came off , on the day of the crash. Both problems were remedied and the boating expedition continued, according to courtroom testimony.
“What did 90-proof reasoning tell him?” the prosecutor said while pointing toward the defendant. “Party on.”
The boat, a 23-foot 1979 Excalibur speedboat, was propelled into the air after hitting a wake. After landing, it made an immediate right turn and hit the canyon wall going at least 26 mph.