Not Guilty Verdict in America’s Cup death

Published on August 25th, 2018

Mary McKee

Hamilton, Bermuda (August 25, 2018) – A man charged with manslaughter after a boat crash that claimed the life of a woman visitor walked free from court yesterday. A Supreme Court jury cleared Andrew Lake of the manslaughter of New Zealander Mary McKee in Hamilton Harbour last year after a two-week trial.

However, Lake, 27, will have to return to court on Monday to be sentenced for other offences, including causing the death of Mrs McKee, who was 62, by reckless driving. Lake was at the helm of a 17ft motorboat on the night of June 1 last year when it hit and ran over a semi-inflatable boat.

Mrs McKee, who was on the island with her husband, Arthur, to watch the 2017 America’s Cup, drowned after she was knocked unconscious and fell out of the boat. Her husband suffered a fractured skull, while the skipper of the small inflatable, Charlie Watson, suffered severe injuries to his left leg.

Mr McKee, who watched the trial after giving his own evidence, said he hoped that other people would learn from his wife’s death.

“I hope people do start to be more careful about how their lights are displayed,” he said. “It was obvious from the evidence that there were a lot of boat people not displaying the right lights. I sat on the waterfront last night and saw several boats — 50 per cent of them had the right lights, 50 per cent of them didn’t. Hopefully, that is something that can come out of all this, that people will be more careful.”

Mr McKee added the experience of watching the trial was “gruelling”, but that he had wanted to make sure that justice was done.

“What’s important to me is having everything recorded correctly. The reason I came to Bermuda is I wanted to see a fair trial,” said Mr McKee. “We wanted to observe that everything is done in a fair manner so the judge and jury can come to a just result.”

Mr McKee added that he had some concerns about the court’s understanding of nautical terms and regulations.

He said he and his family were still struggling to come to terms with his wife’s death more than a year after the crash. Mr McKee added: “It’s been extremely difficult for the family. Mary was very loved and a big part of our family.”

Mr Lake was embraced by members of his family outside the court after the verdict was announced. The jury delivered a majority verdict after several hours of deliberation. Nine of the twelve jurors found Mr Lake not guilty.

Prosecutors had alleged that Mr Lake was grossly negligent and argued he was traveling well over the ten-knot speed limit imposed in the harbour for the America’s Cup.

Lake said he was unable to see the smaller boat because it had no lights. He admitted that he was driving recklessly and over the speed limit, but denied prosecution claims that he was traveling at more than 30 knots.

Lake pleaded guilty to causing Mrs Mckee’s death by reckless driving and injuring both Mr McKee and Mr Watson by dangerous driving in April. However, the more serious charge of manslaughter was taken to trial.

The crash happened between White’s Island and Front Street at about 11pm on what was described as a still and moonless night.

The court heard Mr and Mrs McKee had arrived on the island earlier in the day and had dinner in Hamilton. They were being taken by Mr Watson in a semi-rigid inflatable to the catamaran where they were to stay when the boat was hit by Mr Lake’s boat.

Mr Watson testified that because the boat did not have lights, they intended to travel next to another, larger inflatable that did have navigation lights.

Lake said he was on his way to the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club from the America’s Cup Village when he saw a red inflatable boat directly in front of him and swerved to avoid it, and hit the McKee’s inflatable instead.

Lake said once he realised he had struck a boat, he called 911 and helped search for anyone who had been injured. He approached police as soon as he reached shore and told them he had been involved in the crash.

Officers testified that he told them he was going between 15 and 20 knots. He admitted: “I might have been going too fast.”

Source: The Royal Gazette

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