Linda O'Leary had alcohol on her breath after boat crash but claims she only drank after, court docs say
TORONTO -- Linda O'Leary had alcohol on her breath and had her driver’s licence suspended for three days following a fatal boat crash on an Ontario lake this summer, newly unsealed court documents suggest.
Uxbridge resident Susanne Brito, 48, and Florida man Gary Poltash, 64, were killed when two boats collided on Lake Joseph near Emerald Island in Seguin Township, Ont. at around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 24. Celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary and his wife, who own a luxury cottage on the lake, were on one of the boats involved in the collision.
"Linda O'Leary had an odour of alcoholic beverage on her breath and was given a demand for a breath sample on the roadside screening device," the search warrant documents obtained by CTV News Toronto on Wednesday read.
According to a second set of documents, "O'Leary registered an alert and was given a three day driving suspension. Mrs. O'Leary claims to have consumed a drink of vodka following the collision and prior to the breath test."
But police allege in these documents that O'Leary did consume alcohol prior to the collision.
In Ontario, first time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08 have their licence suspended for three days and are given a $250 fine. The court document did not reveal what Linda O'Leary's blood alcohol concentration level was.
The lawyer representing Linda O'Leary, Brian Greenspan, said in a statement on Tuesday that "the tragic accident had nothing to do with alcohol."
"Linda O'Leary was not impaired; she is a highly experienced boater who was proceeding cautiously with due care and attention," Greenspan said. "She collided with a totally unlit boat on a moonless night which was invisible to any prudent operator. No one could have avoided the collision."
Following the crash, Linda O’Leary was charged under the Canada Shipping Act with careless operation of a vessel, which is not a criminal charge. The maximum penalty is a $10,000 fine.
She does not face any impaired driving charges.
Passengers on other boat were out 'stargazing'
According to the documents, there were 12 people on board the other boat involved in the crash and the group was going out onto the lake to stargaze after a dinner party.
The documents say Irv Edwards, who owned the boat, "turned over control" to Richard Ruh a short distance from shore.
"While adrift without engine running and navigational lights lit, the vessel was struck by another vessel," the documents say.
A passenger on Edwards' boat told police they heard the other boat coming and knew it would hit them but it "was too late to do anything about it."
According to the court documents, a short verbal exchange took place after the crash before both boats drove to shore. The documents say the O'Leary's returned to their cottage and their son, Trevor O'Leary, called 911.
"Trevor O'Leary claimed that his parents had been involved in a boating accident on Lake Joseph and was requesting an ambulance for one person with head injury and a second person with foot injury," the documents said.
Police seize surveillance camera footage
Surveillance camera footage from the Edwards’ property shows their boat leaving the house fully lit with lights, the documents say.
"As the vessel moved away from the shore and before leaving the video, the victim vessel turned off its navigational lights."
Police also obtained surveillance footage from the O'Leary property that the documents say prove the "victim vessel had no lights" on at the time of the crash.
None of the allegations in the court documents have been tested in court.
Brito family suing for wrongful death
Earlier this month, Kevin and Linda O'Leary were both sued for wrongful death by the family of Brito.
In the Statement of Claim, the family alleges the O'Learys "failed to keep a proper lookout" and "drove at too high a rate of speed for that time of night." It goes on to allege their "faculties of observation, perception, judgment and self-control were impaired due to alcohol and drugs."
The Brito family is also suing New York men Richard Ruh and Irv Edwards. Ruh, 57, was charged with failing to exhibit navigation lights in connection with the boating crash and Edwards is the owner of the boat that Ruh was driving.
None of the allegations in the civil suit have been tested in court.
Patrick Brown, of law firm McLeish Orlando LLP, who is representing the claimants, said they are seeking damages for wrongful death as well as punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages. The family is seeking $2 million.
"For this grieving family, it is about obtaining civil justice so as to prevent these types of deaths and curtailing reckless and dangerous behaviour from continuing on our lakes," Brown said.
Brown released a statement earlier this month on behalf of the family, saying they are "devastated" by the crash.
"Our family has lost a beautiful, loving person," Rosa Ragone said.
"We sincerely hope that through this process, that justice is served and that steps are taken so that innocent victims like Suzie, are not seriously injured and killed and that other families do not have to go through such pain and loss."