Prosecutors in Loup City, Nebraska have decided they have enough evidence to try Brian Packer for manslaughter in the wrongful death of two North Carolina stepbrothers.
Back in early July, 12 year old Joshua Rowley, and his 19 year old stepbrother, Matthew McAlexander, both of Kernersville, NC, were attending a family reunion in Kearney, Nebraska. Part of the festivities included tubing at Sherman Reservoir. The holiday weekend came to a tragic end when the boys were struck by a pontoon boat while being pulled on a tube behind a ski boat. Joshua was pronounced dead at the scene, and stepbrother Matthew died a short while later.
Dale Davis, a conservation officer with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported that his investigation found that Packer was operating his pontoon boat in a north-northwesterly direction in Sherman Reservoir, while the ski boat hauling the stepbrothers was traveling in an easterly direction. Officer Davis stated that based on boating rules requiring boaters to give each other the right of way, Packer was the one with the right of way. A passenger on Packer’s boat stated that he did see the ski boat, but did not see the tube it was pulling, and that by the time the tube was visible, it was too late to avoid the collision, though Packer did try to take evasive action.
Investigating officers reported that Packer consumed approximately 8 beers, and that his blood-alcohol level was higher than the legal limit when he crashed his pontoon boat into the brothers. A blood alcohol test taken at an area hospital found Packer to have a blood alcohol level of .089.
It is no longer illegal in Nebraska to consume alcohol in a state park. Prior to 2011, when alcohol was banned in Nebraska state parks, officials say that people still frequently boated while drunk, and that 2 of the 6 reported fatal boating accidents between 2009 and 2010 were alcohol related. This year, with alcohol consumption being legal in state parks, officials report that of the 2 fatal boating accidents that occurred before this one, one of them involved alcohol.
Nebraska does have a new law with increased penalties for boating while intoxicated, but although passed, have not gone into effect yet.
When Packer is tried for felony manslaughter, the prosecution will be required to prove Packer’s guilt based “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If prosecutors are unable to meet this burden and obtain a conviction, the families of the stepbrothers may still maintain a civil suit based in negligence, and may be entitled to recover monetary damages.
For more information on injuries suffered at the hands of a negligent boater, contact an experienced injury attorney.