Saturday, August 27, 2005

Okoboji Hit and Run Boat Owner Absent but Did Nearman have his permission to use boat that night? Authorities not saying yet-investigation on...

Boat's owner absent during fatal collision Authorities say the South Dakota man won't be charged in crash. By FRANK SANTIAGO REGISTER STAFF WRITER August 27, 2005 Authorities on Friday identified a South Dakota contractor as the owner of a boat that left the scene of a collision that killed a Dallas County dentist on West Okoboji Lake. Richard "Chris" Brandt, 46, who has a condominium on the lake and is president of Total Fire Protection of Brandon, S.D., faces no charges in the incident. Brandt owned the 2003 26-foot white Sea Ray that was seized a week ago, said officials with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Authorities spent a week looking for the boat before finding it on a lift near Brandt's Village West condominium. Investigators say it was Brandt's runabout that slammed into the rear of a boat, then vaulted over it and disappeared. Michael Brosnahan, 51, a Perry dentist, was killed, and his wife, Jill, 50, was seriously injured. Four others in the boat with the Brosnahans were not injured. Justin Allen Nearman, 29, of Sioux Falls, S.D., is charged with operating the boat while drunk and causing the death and injury. A neighbor at Brandt's Okoboji condo told The Des Moines Register on Thursday that Nearman is the son-in-law of Brandt's girlfriend, and was known around the building. DCI agent John Quinn told the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls that Brandt, who lives in Sioux Falls, was not in the area at the time of the accident. Like the Brosnahans, who had a summer home at West Okoboji Lake, Brandt is a frequent seasonal visitor to the area, officials said. Brandt didn't return a phone message left Friday at Total Fire Protection, described on the Internet as a licensed building sprinkler contractor. Friday's announcement provided another piece of the puzzle created by the accident at 2 a.m. Aug. 12. Officials continued to keep secret other details of the case, including whether Nearman had permission to use Brandt's boat. "I'm not going to talk about what he revealed to us in an interview," said Dickinson County Attorney Rosalise Olson. "It's an ongoing investigation." Brandt's boat sustained minimal damage but provided vital information to investigators, according to Kevin Baskins, Department of Natural Resources spokesman. "It gave us forensic evidence that linked it to the crash," he said. Nearman has been charged with operating a motor boat while intoxicated resulting in a death, and drunken boating resulting in a serious injury. If convicted on both counts, he faces 30 years in prison. Officials were unable to give Nearman sobriety tests. The drinking-related charges were based on "evidence obtained during the investigation," Olson said, but she declined to say what that evidence was. A passenger in Brandt's boat, Ryan Deighton, 21, of Sioux Falls, has not been available for comment. Investigators said they don't expect to charge Deighton. Quinn, the DCI agent, told the Argus Leader that Deighton "is cooperating with law enforcement." Stanley Munger, a Sioux City lawyer, confirmed that Nearman had hired him to handle the case in Iowa. Nichole Carper, Nearman's lawyer in Sioux Falls, said Munger was attempting to arrange a time when he can accompany Nearman to Iowa to face the two felony charges. "It's premature to respond to any questions," Munger said. "The only order in effect (for Nearman) right now is an extradition hearing in South Dakota in September." Rod Slings, chief of the Department of Natural Resource's safety bureau, said that while state law requires a boat operator to stop after an accident, there are no such requirements for passengers, or for them to report an accident. Dickinson County documents show that Brandt's company is a supplier of fire protection systems for the new courthouse now under construction. The project is expected to be completed in 2006. Nearman is a familiar figure around Brandt's condo and has done a lot of electrical wiring work on the units, according to Sally Nelson, a neighbor. "He's a great guy, that's what we know of him," she said.

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