Boater goes to prison for fatal collision in Maine

Posted Nov. 12, 2008, at 3:54 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Massachusetts boater accused of causing a violent boat collision that claimed two lives on a western Maine lake is going to prison for 3½ years.

Robert LaPointe of Medway, Mass., was led away in handcuffs after his sentencing Wednesday on two counts of aggravated operating under the influence stemming from the crash on Long Lake in Harrison. A jury deadlocked on the more serious charges of manslaughter.

Prosecutors told jurors that LaPointe had been drinking all day and was operating his 32-foot boat, “No Patience,” in a reckless manner when it ran over a smaller boat and its two occupants.

At his sentencing in Cumberland County Superior Court, Justice Robert Crowley said LaPointe lied about his drinking and the speed of his boat to try to deflect responsibility.

“The defendant’s failure to take responsibility and his lack of remorse are stunning,” Crowley said.

Crowley imposed the maximum sentence of five years in prison but suspended a portion of the sentence. LaPointe also was ordered to serve two years of probation upon his release.

The collision on the moonless night of Aug. 11, 2007, killed Terry Raye Trott, 55, of Harrison, and Suzanne Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick.

LaPointe and his passenger survived being thrown from their boat, which sped ashore before coming to a rest more than 100 feet in the woods. A blood sample taken three hours after the crash indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.11 percent, higher than the limit of 0.08 percent for operating a boat in Maine.

During LaPointe’s two-week trial, jurors had to sift through conflicting testimony on how fast LaPointe was driving his boat, how much beer he had consumed and whether the lights on Trott’s boat were working.

Prosecutors told jurors that LaPointe had been drinking all day before he drove his 32-foot boat, “No Patience,” with twin 435-horsepower engines into Trott’s smaller boat at a speed of 45 mph or faster.

LaPointe testified that he drank only three beers on the day of the accident and was operating his boat prudently. He maintained that he didn’t see the smaller boat because its lights weren’t operating.

The crash sparked debate on boating safety and whether it’s appropriate to have a boat capable of going 80 mph on a busy lake such as Long Lake, which is 11 miles long but barely a mile wide in places.

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