The Iowa House has approved a bill that establishes new penalties for hit-and-run boating accidents. Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake who operates an Okoboji resort, says the move was prompted by a fatal hit-and-run that happened August 12th on West Lake Okoboji.
May is part of the Water Safety Council at Lake Okoboji and he says the group’s top priority is to change Iowa law so the penalties for a hit-and-run collision involving boats on the water is the same as for hit-and-run crashes on the highways. The bill establishes new penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident and failing to render aid to anyone who is hurt.
“On the lake, the only penalty for a hit-and-run, even in the case of a death, would be a serious misdemeanor,” May says. “We hardly think that is enough penalty for someone who has failed to stop and render aid.” This past August, 50-year-old Michael Brosnahan, a dentist from Perry, was killed and his wife, Jill, was seriously injured on West Lake Okoboji in a hit-and-run.
Authorities tracked down the boat and on August 23rd Justin Allen Nearman of Sioux Falls, South Dakota was charged with operating a motorboat while intoxicated resulting in the death of another person and operating a motorboat while intoxicated resulting in the serious injury of another person.
May believes prosecutors will have a hard time getting a conviction. “If you can’t prove intoxication, which is going to be very, very difficult, what does that leave you?” May asks. So that’s why May is pushing the bill which would establish new penalties in such cases.
If the bill becomes law, someone guilty of a hit-and-run boating accident that causes property damage could be charged with a simple misdemeanor. If the hit-and-run resulted in a minor injury to a person, the charge would be a serious misdemeanor. If a person is seriously injured, the hit-and-run boater could be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor.
If someone were killed, the hit-and-run boater could be charged with a felony. The House last (Wednesday) night endorsed those penalties. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.