A state appeals court in San Francisco today reinstated two felony charges against a Petaluma man in connection with a fatal boating accident on Lake Sonoma two years ago.William Dawson, 27, was driving a ski boat and had put the vessel in reverse when Mark Spier, 51, of Orland in Glenn County, jumped or fell off a ski platform at the back of the boat and was fatally slashed by the propellers.The Court of Appeal said the case shows “yet again, the tragic consequences that can result from the mixture of boating and alcohol.” Spier was described by witnesses as having been “beyond intoxicated” after an afternoon of drinking beer with a group of friends, according to the ruling. A sheriff’s deputy who tested Dawson after the accident found he had a blood alcohol level of 0.14, the court said. The legal definition of driving under the influence in California is a level above 0.08. Sonoma County prosecutors charged Dawson with two felonies: vessel manslaughter while intoxicated and operating a vessel while intoxicated resulting in bodily injury.Two Sonoma County Superior Court judges dismissed the felonies, however, ruling in decisions in October 2007 and January 2008 that Spier was responsible for his own death.But in today’s ruling, a three judge appeals panel reinstated the
charges, saying that a jury should decide whether Dawson should be held responsible because the risk of harm to Spier was foreseeable.The court noted that Spier had been in the water unsuccessfully trying to ski 15 minutes earlier and was continuing to insist on attempting to waterski.justice James Richman wrote for the court, “We are… prepared to conclude that it was foreseeable that Spier would end up in the water, and thus subject to the risk of harm from a moving propeller.”Richman added, “And defendant was ‘captain of the ship,’ and with that came the concomitant responsibility to those on board, even if – indeed, particularly if – they were intoxicated.” Deputy Sonoma County District Attorney William Mount said, “We’re pleased with the outcome.”Mount said that unless Dawson successfully appeals the ruling, the case will go back to Superior Court in three to six months for a settlement or a trial.Dawson’s attorney in the appeal, Eric Multhaup, could not immediately be reached for comment.
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