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Houseboat trial coming to a close

Defence and Crown lawyers made final arguments Monday in the trial of Leon Reinbrecht
Leon Reinbrecht

By Cam Fortems,
Kamloops This Week

A B.C. Supreme Court justice must decide whether the man who had control of the throttle on a ski boat when it smashed into a houseboat in the pitch darkness of Shuswap Lake, killing its operator, was reckless or whether he hit another craft that should have been lit.

Defence and Crown lawyers made final arguments Monday in the trial of Leon Reinbrecht, who is charged with dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily injury.

The trial comes nearly five years after the Canada Day fireworks celebration on the lake, in 2010. The Crown called more than 50 witnesses, many of whom were on the lake or shoreline.

“This case is complex because of the variety of evidence… It’s remarkably simple in many ways as well,” said defence lawyer Joe Doyle.

He compared houseboat operator Ken Brown, who a toxicology test found was impaired at the time, to a driver on a highway without headlights.

“This is running into an unlit vessel that’s moving, that should have had its lights on… He [Brown] shouldn’t have been out there.”

The trial heard conflicting evidence from witnesses whether Brown’s houseboat had its navigational lights on. That conflict creates a reasonable doubt whether Reinbrecht is guilty, he said.

But Crown lawyer Camille Cook told Justice Sheri Donegan that 25 witnesses testified they saw lights of some kind on the houseboat, either before or after the crash. There was evidence, however, that a white mast light was not functional.

Cook said Reinbrecht’s actions before the crash constitute what she called a “pattern of reckless disregard for the safety of others.”

Those included drinking beer, smoking pot, planing his speedboat in the darkness and looking at the shoreline as if he was lost.

There is little Brown could do to evade the crash that took his life, she argued.

“There just wasn’t enough time to react to the oncoming speedboat.”

Defence has admitted Reinbrecht drank some beer, but said there is no evidence he was drunk.

It also admits he was going at planing speed and had cut donuts on the water prior to the collision that ended with Reinbrecht’s Campion inserted into the houseboat

“It may have been careless to do donuts,” Doyle said. “He wasn’t around any other boats. He was in the middle of the lake.”

Cook argued, however, the crash was close to shore, where extra precaution was necessary.

The trial is expected to be completed Tuesday, after the Observer’s press time,  with Donegan reserving a decision to a later date.