Drowning victims had been drinking

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 27, 2009, at 9:28 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The two local men who drowned Nov. 8 when they and two other men were dumped into Buttermilk Pond after their boat took on water and capsized were intoxicated, according to Col. Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service.

James Brown, the English department head at Foxcroft Academy, had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 and Robert Pomeroy, a businessman, had a blood alcohol level of 0.10. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in Maine is 0.08.

From subsequent interviews with the two survivors — Kevin Stitham, a District Court judge, and David Perkins, a businessman — it was determined that Brown had been operating the boat when it sank, Wilkinson said Tuesday. No blood tests were administered to the two survivors.

The foursome had been staying at Stitham’s camp on the pond while they were hunting in the area, according to the investigation. After two men in the party returned from hunting Saturday afternoon, Nov. 8, the group took off in Stitham’s 12-foot V-hull Duratech boat to visit friends across the pond. Midway across the south side of the pond, Stitham, who was in the bow, noticed water around his ankles and advised the operator to head for shore, Lt. Pat Dorian of the Maine Warden Service said earlier.

The boat capsized before they reached shore. Stitham, Pomeroy and Brown grabbed horse collar-type life vests and decided to swim to shore. Perkins elected to stay behind with the capsized boat, according to Dorian. Pomeroy and Brown never made it to shore.

“The boat was not adequate for the number of people in the watercraft,” Dorian said Tuesday. The boat did not have a plug, so there was no chance that was the cause of the boat taking on water, he said.

Although the overloaded boat was owned by Stitham, no charges were filed, according to Wilkinson. If there were any charges, the operator would have been the responsible party. Had Brown survived with that blood alcohol level and someone died, the case would have been presented to the District Attorney’s Office for possi-ble prosecution, he said.

“There’s no discussion or even plans for prosecution against either of the survivors,” Wilkinson said. “One was seated in the front of the boat and one was seated in the middle of the boat.” Stitham was in the bow of the boat and Perkins was next to Pomeroy, he said.

Earlier information provided to Dorian by some of the 27 wardens involved in the search stated that Pomeroy had been piloting the boat, but later interviews showed that to be incorrect, Dorian said.

“We assigned an investigator to it once we got our bearings and made the recovery of the bodies, and they went back over all the officers’ reports and re-interviewed the two survivors, and it was very evident based on those interviews that Mr. Brown was the operator,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said he had discussed the case with the Maine Attorney General’s Office before he released the blood alcohol level information to ensure he was not violating any statutes. The widows also were notified of the levels.

“Obviously, we want to be respectful to the deceased families as well,” Wilkinson said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/01/27/news/piscataquis/drowning-victims-had-been-drinking/ printed on October 25, 2014