Originally created 09/17/97

Intoxication contributed to boat accident



Both men killed in a July 21 accident in which an 1,100-horsepower speedboat collided with a concrete bridge piling in the Savannah River had blood alcohol levels well in excess of legal intoxication.

The speedboat operator, James E. Dekalb Jr., 34, of Martinez, had a blood-alcohol level of .23 and also tested positive for cocaine, according to tests by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's forensics sciences division.

A passenger killed in the collision, Randy Miller, 39, of Augusta, had a blood alcohol level of .14 and also tested positive for cocaine, the tests concluded.

In Georgia, anyone operating a vehicle or boat with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above can be charged with driving or boating under the influence, said Sgt. Howard Hensley of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

A blood alcohol level of .10 or above constitutes legal intoxication, he said.

The pre-dawn accident occurred when the 29-foot boat, equipped with twin 454-cubic-inch motors, struck a bridge piling in the river near downtown Augusta and capsized before sinking.

A second passenger, Christy Pinion Hall, 35, of Graniteville, survived the accident but sustained serious back injuries.

The two deaths were among a record number of boating fatalities in Georgia this year that led to Gov. Zell Miller's call for a review of boating safety laws statewide.

Throughout July, 63 boating accidents resulting in 24 deaths - including 12 drownings - had been reported on Georgia waterways.

State officials are reviewing comments gathered during a series of statewide meetings held to discuss ways to reduce boating accidents.