OGDEN — Criminal charges were filed Friday against three boaters accused of causing fatal injuries to a swimmer in Pineview Reservoir and then leaving the scene without rendering aid.
Colton Raines, 22, and Skyler Shepherd, 22, were each charged with reckless endangerment and obstruction of justice, class A misdemeanors, and failure to render aid, a class B misdemeanor.
Robert Cole Boyer, 29, was charged with obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor.
A class A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail while a class B misdemeanor carries a maximum possible sentence of up to six months in jail.
The charges were filed in Ogden's 2nd District Court. Both Raines and Boyer were booked into the Weber County Jail. As of Friday afternoon, Shepherd hadn't been booked.
On Aug. 21, investigators say the three men were boating on Pineview Reservoir when their propeller injured Esther Fujimoto, a University of Utah molecular biologist and avid swimmer, who was in the water about 200 to 300 feet from shore.
The Weber County Attorney's Office, in a prepared statement, declined any further comment Friday about the case until the first court appearances for the men.
In November, Fujimoto's sister filed a wrongful death suit against the three men. According to the civil suit, the propeller "tore into her torso and lower abdomen, causing critical injuries."
The suit also contended Boyer and Raines had smoked marijuana prior to the accident and all three had consumed alcohol.
"The defendants talked to the decedent but did not offer her aid and left the scene, leaving the decedent in the water bleeding and severely injured," the lawsuit states.
But in their responses, the men denied the majority of claims made in the civil suit — including smoking pot or drinking alcohol — and said Fujimoto's own negligence was to blame for not taking enough precautions to alert boaters that she was in the water.
Search warrant affidavits identified Shepherd as the boat owner and Boyer as the driver at the time of the accident.
Detectives talked to Shepherd on Aug. 26. He admitted being on the reservoir but denied hitting anybody, according to court documents. Investigators took photographs of what appeared to be fresh damage on the boat. They also invited Shepherd to the sheriff's office for a more formal interview but he declined, the search warrant states.
Nine days after the accident, Shepard walked into the Weber County Sheriff's Office with his attorney to be interviewed. He said Boyer was driving the boat at the time of the accident, according to court records.
At the University of Utah's Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, one of Fujimoto's former co-workers, Brooke Gaynes, said she believes misdemeanors aren't strong enough for what the men allegedly did. But under the current law, it's the best that can be done.
"It's as much as you can expect to get under the law," she said. "I think it's pretty light considering how cruel and inhumane it was. I hope they'll take responsibility for what they've done."
Currently, there are no laws dealing specifically with a hit-and-run involving a boat, she said. Hitting a boat with another boat is about the same as hitting a swimmer with a boat, Gaynes said.4 comments on this story
She said she hopes justice can be served now that charges are filed. The entire incident, Gaynes said, has been very hard on Fujimoto's family.
Gaynes encouraged support of a bill currently being considered by Utah lawmakers, HB92, which seeks to establish stronger rules on Utah's waterways. Part of the proposed law would require boaters to stay at the scene of an accident until help arrives.