Court: Witnesses Testify In Fatal Collision Trial

August 17, 2018

[Written by Don Burgess]

“I just screamed because there was no way I thought anybody would survive.”

Jurors heard that as part of an emotional testimony from a witness of the fatal boat crash involving an America’s Cup visitor from New Zealand.

One witness, from California, recounted the details leading up to and after Andrew Lake’s boat, the Lazy Bouy, went over the top of Rigid Inflatable Boat [RIB] Mary McKee and her husband Arthur were travelling in on the night of June 1, 2017.

Mr Lake has denied a charge of manslaughter of Mrs McKee in connection with the accident.

Also, on Wednesday afternoon, jurors heard testimony from another witness, who was travelling on a boat that was going to the same catamaran as the McKees, and from forensic pathologist Dr Michael Pickup.

During her statement, one witness said they got into the RIB at Barr’s Bay Park which was being skippered by Max.

She said the McKee’s boat was travelling slightly ahead of them by 15 feet on the left side [city side] as they were headed back to the catamaran Dream Paix.

The witness said she had extensive knowledge of boats having taken basic and intermediate keelboat classes while attending the University of California at Santa Cruz. She said she also received an eight-week safety course from the US Coast Guard, and had sailed in various keelboats an average of three to four times a week.

“I didn’t see it coming,” the tearful witness said. “A speedboat went right over the top, and it didn’t slow down.

“It was full throttle over the top of the boat. It was coming at this fast clip,” she said. “He must not have seen it as he didn’t slow down. It went flying over it, and it planed and flew into the sky. It was like surreal.

“I just screamed because there was no way I thought anybody would survive.”

She received some tissues from a court staffer and took a moment to compose herself before continuing. She said she heard Mr Watson’s scream.

“I knew it was Charlie,” she recounted. “Our two boats came together, and we saw his head in the water. I think it was Scott and Max who pulled him in from the water and his leg was mangled. I just couldn’t look at it.”

She said the people in her boat quickly put pressure and put a tourniquet on Mr Watson’s leg as they kept it elevated.

She said another boat came alongside with two men, and because of the “grave condition” of Mr Watson, he was taken to shore.

“I said, ‘There’s two more in the water. There’s two more in the water; we have to find them,” she added. “It was very concerning to me as I felt every minute mattered. I felt very helpless, and I couldn’t really see anything because it was very dark out there.”

They soon saw the damaged RIB and Mr McKee was still in it. She said he was very disorientated and kept asking “Where is Mary?”

She said they noticed blood on the back of his head and figured he had some sort of head trauma.

They took him to the shore and ambulances were now on scene. Once they arrived back to a dock, they were told a lady had been found, been given CPR, and rushed to the hospital.

QC Jerome Lynch cross-examined the witness and asked if there were any reason why all six people who had gone to dinner together couldn’t have gotten in the same boat since the boat could accommodate six passengers, and they were all staying on the same catamaran.

She said unless there was a weight restriction, she didn’t see any reason why they couldn’t have gone in the same boat.

The witness said she remembers that Max was wearing a headlamp but could not recall if there were lights on her boat.

The jurors were then shown CCTV footage of the Harbour of two boats travelling at roughly the same speed. Mr Lynch identified one as Mr Lake’s boat.

When asked if she saw Mr Lake’s boat ahead of time, the witness said: “No, it came too fast.” The first she said she saw of it was when it was airborne after hitting the McKee’s boat.

Mr Lynch then asked because of the lights from the other boats and from the city, wouldn’t it be difficult to see a craft going through the water without a proper nautical light?

“It would be easier to see if you had proper lighting,” the witness said.

Another witness recounted many of the details already given about the dinner and where they sat in the boats. She described it as a “pleasant, quiet night,” with maybe a quarter moon.

She heard an engine behind her and looked over her left shoulder and saw a boat approaching theirs.

“It was going at a speed faster than ours so it passed us and we got wet, and there was some spray. I continued to watch the boat as it moved forward. I saw it go airborne. Shortly after that, I heard Charlie scream,” the second witness said.

Dr Pickup was the second forensic pathologist to exam Mrs McKee. He testified she had a bruise as well as a laceration on the side of her head, but no skull fracture. Dr Pickup did add there was some blood around the brain. Also, Mrs McKee has some injuries to her legs caused by being caught in the propeller.

“In my opinion, she drowned,” Dr Pickup said. When cross-examined by defence counsel, he was asked if Mrs McKee had been wearing a life jacket, would that have prevented her from drowning, Dr Pickup said: “Possibly yes.”

The trial continues.

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