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Winnipesaukee boat crash sparks 5 separate lawsuits

Sunday News Correspondent

April 30. 2017 1:29AM
Lake Winnipesaukee 

LACONIA - A judge overseeing lawsuits filed by all five people involved in a 2013 collision between two pleasure boats on Lake Winnipesaukee has granted a $250,000 attachment against one of the drivers, finding he lacks sufficient assets to satisfy a potential civil judgment against him.

Barry Myers of Dracut, Mass., who also owns a cottage in Alton, avoided a boating while intoxicated conviction after the crash between his 21-foot Chaparral named "Pour Again!" and a 26-foot Formula Sunspot being driven by veterinarian Brenda Stowe of Gilford.

On April 26, Judge James O'Neill approved a lien against Myers' real estate, after determining that if Christopher Dortona of Revere, Mass., is awarded damages by a jury, Myers lacks sufficient assets to pay it.

In objecting to the attachment request, Myers' lawyer, Michael Johnson of Manchester, said his client has $500,000 in insurance coverage, more than enough to satisfy any finding of liability, which he disputes.

Dortona, one of two passenger in Myers' boat, claims he has amassed medical bills of more than $55,000 for treatment of a fracture of his upper left arm and has lost wages of $119,000 for being unable to work as an electrician with IBEW 103 for about 10 months.

The court approved attachments against a two-bedroom cottage owned by Myers on Anthony Drive in Alton, on a 0.27-acre lot that is assessed at $79,000 for tax purposes. Dortona's lawyer, Daniel Duckett of Manchester, also requested the court issue an attachment against The Stumble Inn, on Rockingham Road, Londonderry, and on any personal property Myers owns in the state, including cash, vehicles or bank accounts. Duckett argued that his client is likely to recover a judgment of $750,000.

Following the June 13, 2013 nighttime accident in Wentworth Cove, near Governor's Island in Gilford, the Marine Patrol charged Myers with boating while intoxicated and failure to display proper lighting. Stowe was charged with failure to keep right.

After a district court trial, Stowe was acquitted, and the judge granted a defense motion to dismiss the BWI charge against Myers, finding testimony failed to show that he was behind the wheel.

A Marine Patrol officer testified that Myers was arrested after he flunked numerous field sobriety tests, but that Myers refused to provide a sample of his breath or blood. The state had planned to call the officer who observed Myers still piloting the boat the night of the crash, but a winter storm that snarled air traffic nationwide delayed the officer's Jan. 6 flight from Florida.

Marine Patrol Capt. Tim Dunleavy dropped the remaining charge because the bow light on Myers' boat was ripped off in the collision and was never recovered from the bottom of the lake.

During the criminal trial, Stowe testified that she was in the midst of a port turn toward her dock when she encountered another boat speeding toward her. In an attempt to avoid a head-on collision, she said she made a sharp left turn and increased her speed.

Myers then sued Stowe in Belknap County Superior Court, claiming she was responsible for the crash for making an improper left-hand turn in front of his boat.

Attorney Matt Lahey of Laconia then filed a counterclaim on Stowe's behalf, claiming that the T-bone collision was caused by Myers because he didn't keep a proper lookout, failed to operate his boat at a speed that was safe and reasonable under the conditions, as he was either drunk or drugged.

Stowe's passenger, Steven Bauer of Gilford, also filed suit against Myers. Last March, Lawrence Edwards of Georgetown, Mass., and Dortona, who were both riding in Myers' boat, also filed suit. Both make identical claims for personal injuries and allege that both Myers and Stowe were negligent in the operation of their respective vessels.

On April 26, Judge O'Neill denied Edwards' request to attach $1.5 million in real estate owned by Myers and Stowe, finding that he had failed to show a reasonable likelihood that he would recover judgment in an amount equal to or greater than the amount he sought to lien.

Edwards claims he dislocated his left shoulder and suffered a torn rotator cuff that required two surgeries to repair, cost him $175,000 in medical expenses and left him disabled. He is alleging lost wages of more than $550,000 through 2016 and the present value of his future loss of earnings at $1.7 million. As a licensed sheet metal master and foreman for a mechanical contractor in Salem, Mass., Edwards was earning $72.56 an hour before he was injured.

While Myers was not convicted of BWI, his driving privileges were suspended for two years after an Administrative License Suspension hearing before the N.H. Department of Safety, under the implied consent law for refusing to submit to a breath test after his arrest the night of the accident.

In finding Stowe not guilty of failing to keep right, Circuit Court Judge Jim Carroll wrote that the most reasonable scenario was that Myers' boat was being operated without running lights, that the boat was essentially invisible as it traveled because the stern light was hidden by its improper placement on the boat, that Stowe's craft did not cross the path of Myers' boat, as she was making a slow arching turn to port, that she saw the "light" as she passed across the bow nearly contemporaneously with the collision.

The parties were unable to negotiate a settlement during mediation. The case is now scheduled to go to trial in September.

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