MILLER COUNTY, Mo. — An Iowa man was sentenced to 180 days in jail on Tuesday, after pleading guilty to Boating While Intoxicated. Wise will serve 30 days shock time, with the remainder of the sentence suspended.
Kelly Wise, 64, of Atlantic, Iowa, was drunk when a boat crash after dark killed Jason Russell, 39, of Eugene, Mo. in June of 2019. In addition to Russell being killed, five people were injured in the crash.
In an interview with LakeExpo, Miller County Prosecutor Ben Winfrey explained Wise was not charged with any crimes relating to Russell’s death, because it could not be shown that he was criminally negligent in addition to being drunk at the time of the crash.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Wise was driving a 2002 Formula upstream around the 3 Mile Marker when it collided with another boat driven by 37-year-old Bradley Siebeneck, of Holts Summit. The crash happened at about 10 p.m. According to the probable cause statement for Wise’s arrest, he saw the other boat approaching from his port (left) side at the last moment, and turned the boat to the starboard (right) in an attempt to avoid the collision.
After the fatal crash, Wise reportedly told a MSHP trooper he had drank several beers earlier in the evening, beginning at 5 p.m. A breath test showed Wise’s blood alcohol content was .184 percent, according to the probable cause document. The legal limit for driving a boat is .08 percent BAC. Boating While Intoxicated is a Class B Misdemeanor in Missouri.
Boating in Missouri is governed by state statute, as well as U.S. Coast Guard navigation rules and regulations, which incorporate international maritime regulations known as COLREG (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea).
COLREG rules have specific prescriptions for boats on a collision course:
1. Head-on situation (Rule 14) — when two power-driven boats are on a head-on collision course, both should alter their course to starboard (right)
2. Crossing situation (Rule 15) — when two power-driven boats are on crossing courses, then the boat which has the other to the starboard side must keep out of the way and try to avoid crossing in front of the other boat. In other words, the boat on the left-hand side is the give-way boat, and should turn to the right and cross well behind the other boat.
(For more information on COLREG's rules of the water, read here.)
“There’s just as much evidence that the Russell boat caused the accident,” Winfrey said, emphasizing his desire to be sensitive to the tragic nature of the crash while also having to be clear about the facts of the incident. “There has to be some evidence that the drunk driver caused the crash,” he explained. Winfrey said he worked with the victim’s family and the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Water Patrol Division to look carefully over all the facts. “I can only file charges supported by a probable cause affidavit submitted by a law enforcement officer,” Winfrey said. In the end, he says there was no evidence supporting a charge of anything further than Boating While Intoxicated.