Seventeen months after the incident, charges have been laid against the operator of a speedboat that collided head-on with a houseboat on the 2010 Canada Day weekend, leaving the 18-foot Campion runabout fully embedded inside the houseboat’s cabin.
Killed in the crash was houseboat owner and driver, 53-year-old Kenneth William (Kenny) Brown of Chase. Eight people were injured.
Facing two charges – criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm – is 49-year-old Leon Michael Reinbrecht of Celista.
The crash occurred about 11:20 p.m. on July 3, 2010, as boats were leaving Magna Bay on Shuswap Lake following the annual Canada Day weekend fireworks display.
Brown’s sister, Patti Oliver, was on the water in another boat the night Brown was killed. She said ironically, had he not been so safety-conscious, the night might have turned out differently. He was slow to leave the area, in order to avoid all the boat traffic.
“My brother waited 15 or 20 minutes. He was trying to be safe, to keep everybody safe. It’s ironic…,” she told the Observer. “I’ve always thought, what if he’d just left with everybody else, he would have been okay.”
Oliver says several people were boating unsafely that night.
“It was weird to see all these boats, flying out of there at top speed. I thought something’s going to happen, not knowing that something was going to happen to my own family.”
Her family is now looking forward to the day when the trial is complete.
“It will be nice to see it come to an end,” Oliver said. “To put it behind us. You never know when you turn on the TV and it’s there.”
She didn’t comment on the charges themselves.
“We just have to go through the trial and find out at the end, to see what happens. It’s easy to say things right now, but we’ll wait to see the outcome.”
The death has been understandably tough on the family.
“It’s been hard, but we’ve kept in touch with the RCMP and they’re working hard to make a case.”
Police did not conduct a blood-alcohol test of the driver of the speedboat the night of the crash but they did obtain a court order for the admissions blood that is often taken in hospital. It was then they learned no blood sample had been taken. Police told the Observer at that time, the spectrum of possible charges would not include operating a vessel with a blood-alcohol level exceeding .08, but could include options such as impaired operation of a vessel.
The decision regarding charges took 17 months because of the copious quantities of evidence to sift through, police said.
Police forwarded the file to Crown counsel in late June.
A total of 13 people were on the houseboat and three on the speedboat at the time of the collision.
Observers termed it miraculous that more people weren’t killed or severely injured. Eight people were taken to hospital in Kamloops and all but two were released the next day. A baby under one year was sleeping in the cabin of the houseboat and was not injured.
Kenny Brown had spent a lot of time boating and ran a parasailing company, Oliver says. His houseboat was to be a part of his retirement.
“He was a good guy with a big heart, he loved the Shuswap… He was quiet with people who didn’t know him, he was funny and we’re really going to miss him. He was taken too young. He had too much to do still.”
Oliver is pleased to see a better police presence on the lake, but says more is needed.
“I think they probably need more on all the lakes. Boats are getting bigger and faster… They’ll have to address it if they have the money to address that kind of stuff. It’s pretty scary out there.”