Boater’s drinking, speed disputed

Posted Sept. 12, 2008, at 8:43 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Massachusetts man accused of recklessness in a night boat collision that killed two people repeatedly told wardens he had been operating at 45 mph when he hit something on a Maine lake.

Later, a nurse testified, he asked her to switch blood samples at the hospital.

Robert LaPointe initially had to convince wardens that he had truly run over something. One of them questioned whether he had fallen out of his boat while horsing around on Long Lake in Harrison.

“I’m telling you right now there’s something out there,” LaPointe said on a recording made during an interview with the warden and played for a Cumberland County Superior Court jury on Friday. “All right, ’cuz it cut right in front of us and we just all of a sudden, we’re talking, all of a sudden, ‘Vroom!’ And it threw us right out of the boat.”

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A nursing supervisor from Bridgton Hospital testified that LaPointe confided to her he had been drinking heavily over the course of the day and made a quiet gesture to her suggesting she draw her own blood instead of his to be submitted for a laboratory analysis.

Marlene Fillebrown said LaPointe initially balked at giving consent to the blood test, telling her, “I’ve been drinking all day, stopped for an hour and then drank six more beers.”

Fillebrown said she did not think LaPointe was joking at any point during their interaction. “He appeared scared and anxious,” she said.

The blood sample, taken three hours after the crash, showed that LaPointe’s blood alcohol content was 0.11 percent, higher than the 0.08 percent limit for driving.

LaPointe, 39, of Medway, Mass., wiped away tears Friday as a state medical examiner described the deaths of Terry Raye Trott, 55, of Harrison and Suzanne Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick.

Groetzinger was killed instantly when a boat propeller struck her and nearly decapitated her, while Trott suffered gruesome propeller cuts and died from a combination of injuries and drowning, said Dr. Marguerite DeWitt, deputy state medical examiner.

Both LaPointe and his passenger, Nicole Randall, now 20, swam to safety as the boat continued across the lake and onto shore before coming to a stop 160 feet into woods.

The state maintains LaPointe was drunk and operating his 32-foot, high-performance boat recklessly at the time of the collision the night of Aug. 11, 2007. The defense said he was not intoxicated and obeyed all boating safety rules.

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