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The wife of Kevin O’Leary, co-host of the popular TV series "Shark Tank," was acquitted in a case surrounding a 2019 boat crash that killed two and injured several others.
Linda O’Leary was charged with the "careless operation of a vessel" after the Aug. 24, 2019 accident that killed two passengers on Lake Joseph in Ontario, Canada. O’Leary allegedly steered the boat into a larger vessel shortly after a fireworks display. As a result, passenger Gary Poltash was killed instantly, while another passenger, Susanne Brito, died later at a hospital.
Three others were treated for their injuries after the crash.
“On late Saturday night, I was a passenger in a boat that was involved in a tragic collision with another watercraft that had no navigation lights on and then fled the scene,” Kevin O’Leary told People in a 2019 statement. “I am fully cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation.”
Linda O’Leary was the designated driver at the time after she and her group returned from a dinner party, according to The Globe and Mail. At Tuesday’s verdict, Judge Richard Humphrey found that the other boat, a Nautique, didn’t have its lights on — a factor that could have prevented the accident.
The operator of the larger boat, Richard Ruh, of Orchard Park, New York, was also charged with "failing to exhibit navigation light while underway," according to an Ontario Provincial Police statement cited by CTV News. While Ruh was at the helm, the Nautique was owned by Irv Edwards, a friend who owned a nearby cottage. According to The Globe and Mail, Edwards’ guests were out on a stargazing excursion.
“The purpose of the venture into the open waters of Lake Joseph by Mr. Edwards and his quests was to acquire an unobstructed view of the night sky without interference of artificial light,” said Judge Humphrey, according to The Globe and Mail. “It defies logic to suggest they would have traveled to that location and activated the lights, the effect of which would have been to defeat their purpose.”
Prosecutors argued that Linda O’Leary should have weighed the potential risk of an unlit boat and lowered her speed.
“The submission almost suggests that no one should operate a boat at night under any circumstance,” Judge Humphrey continued.
At trial, a provincial officer testified that he performed a roadside alcohol screening test on Linda O’Leary after the accident. O’Leary allegedly told the officer that she had one alcoholic beverage after the accident. However, Humphrey said the test isn’t a “scientific device for court purposes” and reminded the court that O’Leary wasn’t charged with driving under the influence.
“…This court concludes, on the evidence before it, that alcohol played no part as it relates to the issues of operating a vessel without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for others,” he declared.
Gary Poltash’s brother, Larry Poltash, told The Toronto Sun he hoped an investigation would lead to the conclusion that this was only an accident, but if either Mrs. or Mr. O’Leary were responsible, “they’ve got to do the time.”
“My heartfelt prayers and condolences to the victims, the families, and those affected by this loss,” Kevin O’Leary said in his 2019 statement.
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