Thursday, June 16, 2005

Boating and Drinking Claims Life - Drinking and No Life Jackets!! Wow!!

Boating accident claims man's life By Rich Harbert MPG Newspapers PLYMOUTH (June 15) - The summer boating season claimed its first casualty last weekend after a Kingston man fell from a skiff and drowned. Todd Carruthers, 41, slipped underwater as the rowboat bringing him to shore Saturday night filled with water and capsized off Howlands Landing in Duxbury. Carruthers, a poor swimmer, was returning from an afternoon of fishing with a long-time Kingston friend and fishing buddy Scott Kirby when the leaky skiff started taking on water. A prosecutor said the rowboat had no life jackets. Kirby threw his friend a duffel bag of clothes instead, but it could not keep him afloat. Environmental police charged Kirby, 42, of Cross Street, Kingston, with vehicular homicide (boat) while under the influence of alcohol and drugs and while operating negligently. A painter and carpenter who once worked as a commercial fisherman, Kirby also faces charges of simple possession of marijuana, operating a vessel with no personal floatation devices and with expired flares and operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. At Kirby's arraignment Monday in district court, assistant district attorney Robert Kenney alleged Kirby was still drunk when a woman on shore found him searching for his friend. The woman told police Kirby appeared unusually calm. Another woman told police she heard Kirby radio for help but noticed that he did not use an emergency channel. Plymouth Harbormaster Tim Routhier found Carruthers underwater about 21/2 hours after he fell overboard. Kirby initially told police he had been drinking coffee all day but later admitted he drank two beers and a shot at noon. Police found several empty containers of beer and hard tea as well as an empty liter bottle of Goldschlager, a clear cinnamon liqueur, on the boat. Police also found a small amount of marijuana in Kirby's backpack. Kirby's lawyer, Kenneth DiFazio of Weymouth, said Kirby denies being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He said Kirby was in shock after the accident and remains in deep sorrow at the loss of his friend. Kirby and Carruthers had been friends for at least 35 years and often fished together, DiFazio said. They spent the afternoon fishing in a 20-foot Grady-White that Kirby borrowed from boat owner Scott Crawford. Kirby took the boat out alone at 6 a.m and returned to the landing to get Carruthers at noon. He told police the skiff had a habit of taking on water but it usually was not a problem because the trip between the mooring and the landing was short. Prosecutors said it went down on the return trip under the weight of the men and their gear. DiFazio suggested the boat sank after the bottom failed about 25 feet from shore. Kenney said Kirby went back to the larger boat and used it to search for his friend before help arrived. Kenny said Kirby was glassy-eyed and had a strong odor of alcohol and slurred speech when he talked with police after the accident. He refused to take sobriety tests. Environmental police officer Robert Akin later warned of the dangers of drinking on the water. "What people don't realize is that one hour on the water is like four hours in a motor vehicle," Akin said. "Six hours in a boat is like 24 hours in a car. Life jackets are so important. If they had two life jackets aboard that boat we wouldn't be here now." Kirby was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail. The case was continued to July 12 for pretrial conference.

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