By Tim Petruk, Kamloops This Week
The final witness in the trial of the man accused of recklessly driving his speedboat into a houseboat on Shuswap Lake in 2010 and killing its driver has told a B.C. Supreme Court judge he nearly ran into an unlit houseboat earlier the same night.
Leon Reinbrecht’s trial on one count each of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm is now in the argument stages. The trial began in February.
Reinbrecht was charged after his speedboat collided nearly head-on with a houseboat on Magna Bay on July 3, 2010. The crash, which took place following a post-Canada Day fireworks display, killed Ken Brown.
Reinbrecht does not deny operating the speedboat, but his lawyers have argued the houseboat was not properly lit prior to the nighttime crash.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, Alex McLean testified he nearly struck an unlit houseboat with his powerboat just before the fireworks display began.
“It was what I would describe as last light,” McLean said.
“It wasn’t completely dark, but it was very, very close to completely dark.”
McLean, a natural-resource officer in Golden, said he slowed down to about 16 km/h as he drove his boat into Magna Bay, given the dark conditions and congested boat traffic.
“Suddenly, my wife was on the bow and I was driving and I think both of us saw it at the same time because she hollered at me and I saw the shape at the same time,” he said.
“It was a houseboat. We were on a collision course with it. I couldn’t see anything but a shape in the darkness.”
McLean said the houseboat was completely unlit except for a small, dim blue light on its stern near the water line.
“My initial emotion was one of anger because it didn’t have any lights on,” he said.
“I circled around and went to approach the boat to holler at them to turn their lights on.
“We didn’t approach the boat which, in hindsight, I don’t know if this is the boat involved or not, but we should have approached the boat. We continued on past the bay and never saw that boat again.”
After learning about the crash the following day, McLean said he phoned police.
“I phoned the Chase RCMP – the reason why was to let them know that we’d almost hit a houseboat that night, as well,” he said. “That seemed like pertinent information for their investigation.
“The officer told me that they, as in the RCMP, had been receiving many calls from people that were at the fireworks that night. They told me that if they needed any further information from me, that they’d phone me in the future.”
McLean said he never heard back from an investigator. Earlier this year, McLean said, he was travelling through Kamloops when he came across news reports about Reinbrecht’s trial beginning. He said he phoned the Kamloops court registry and asked to speak to a lawyer involved.
Eventually, the court heard, his message was passed on to Crown counsel and a Chase Mountie contacted McLean a few days later. He provided police with a statement in March, but was not called as a Crown witness.
Reinbrecht’s lawyers elected to call McLean as a defence witness.
The Crown had no questions for McLean on cross-examination.
Lawyers are expected to meet on June 15 to fix a date for closing arguments.