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Linda O’Leary declared not guilty in fatal boat crash

Linda O’Leary has been acquitted of the charge of careless operation of a vessel stemming from a 2019 boat crash that killed two people on Lake Joseph.

The crash occurred on the night of August 24. O’Leary was driving her boat back to her cottage after a dinner party and her husband, businessman and television personality Kevin O’Leary, and a friend were also onboard.

O’Leary’s boat collided with a boat that was anchored on open water. The owner of the boat anchored boat testified that they were “stargazing” at the time. Two occupants, Gary Poltash, 64, and Suzana Brito, 48, died from injuries, while three other passengers were wounded.

O’Leary’s trial ran for 13 days throughout the summer and was presided over by Justice Richard Humphrey at the Parry Sound courthouse. Throughout the trial, O’Leary’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, argued that the stopped vessel did not have visible lights, while the Crown attorney tried to prove that O’Leary had been driving too fast.

The court also had to determine whether alcohol played a factor. An Ontario Provincial Police officer had testified that O’Leary blew in the “alert range” blood alcohol level in a breathalyzer test soon after the incident. But O’Leary claimed that she had one drink and it was after the crash to calm her nerves.

In his decision, Humphrey told the court that “alcohol played no part.” He concluded that video evidence of O’Leary departing from the dinner party showed no lack of coordination, and the paramedic who attended to O’Leary after the crash saw no signs of intoxication.

Humphrey also criticized the Crown for providing insufficient evidence of O’Leary’s speed at the time of the crash, instead of pointing out that she is a licensed pleasure-craft operator, knew the waters of Lake Joseph well, had a properly equipped boat, and had turned on the lights of her boathouse to help her navigate home.

After examining footage from the O’Leary’s cottage, the judge determined that the stationary boat, a 16-seat Nautique owned by Irv Edwards, did not have visible navigation lights. “The video evidence shows the O’Leary vessel’s navigational lights to be clearly visible,” Humphrey said. “If on, the Nautique’s lights ought to have been equally visible.”

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