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Wedding plans obliterated by drunk boat operator

An accident caused by a drunk driver can turn the most joyous occasion into a solemn event. A man who was operating a boat while intoxicated unfortunately caused this effect for several of his friends: the accident shattered a scheduled wedding by killing the bride-to-be and the best man, and injuring four others -- including the then soon-to-be groom, the boat driver, and two others.

Investigators say that the driver's alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit when he crashed the powerboat into a stationary barge that was being used in the construction of a bridge. The man's defense attorney argued that the barge was inadequately lighted, and that there had been complaints about it. While more lighting was added after the accident, the Coast Guard and authorities overseeing the bridge construction maintained that the lighting was proper when the drunk driver hit it.

The boat operator admitted that he had been drinking to first responders at the scene. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter rather than being tried for a first-degree charge of the same crime. His plea deal is designed to reduce his punishment from a possible 15-year prison sentence to a two-year sentence, although the court has not yet formally sentenced the man.

In addition to the criminal charges, the families of the two who died in the crash have filed civil suits, which name the driver as one of the defendants. The families are also suing the companies involved in the construction project for failure to maintain conditions that would have prevented the accident.

Neither a criminal conviction nor money awarded in a civil lawsuit can relieve the grief of the families affected by an accident caused by impaired driving. But those in Ohio, and elsewhere around the country, who make the negligent decision to operate any type of vehicle or vessel while having consumed more than the legal limit of alcohol should expect to face the consequences of that decision. 

Source: WFLX, "Guilty plea in NY crash that killed bride-to-be," Jim Fitzgerald, June 9, 2014

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