Friday, October 17, 2003

Charges filed in boat hit-skip


June 27 crash seriously injured four in second craft

By Jim Hannah and Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Brian Maher sits with his son, Jesse, at their Sycamore Township home Thursday. Brian's right hand was severely injured in the boat accident.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
NEWPORT - A suburban Columbus man was charged Thursday with recklessly driving his speedboat over the top of another, smaller boat, and taking off without offering to help those who were hurt.

Glenn C. Colann, of Gahanna, faces 14 charges - 11 of them felonies in the June 27 crash that injured seven people.

Brian Maher and his 6-year-old son were on the smaller boat when their craft was hit by a speeding 40-foot Baja speedboat.

"It was like someone had dropped a grenade in the boat," Maher said Thursday afternoon, adding that he was glad to hear about the indictment.

Colann, who is expected to turn himself in to Kentucky authorities within 48 hours, is charged with:

• Four felony charges of first-degree assault for the four people seriously injured in the hit-and-run wreck.

• Three misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree assault for the three passengers who were less seriously injured.

• Seven felony charges of first-degree wanton endangerment for fleeing the scene of the wreck.

If convicted of the charges, Colann could face up to 40 years in prison.

Colann didn't return phone calls to his home. But his lawyer, James Morgan, of Newport, said Colann is not guilty.

"We will defend these charges vigorously," he said.

Because the investigation took nearly four months, Morgan said he believed charges would not be brought.

"We have some serious questions about the evidence in the case," Morgan said, adding he has hired his own investigators to review evidence. "We look forward to our day in court."

Police in Dayton, Ky., said Maher's boat was traveling slowly through a no-wake zone near the Queen City riverboat landing when the speedboat ran over it.

Maher, who was piloting the boat that night, said his family and four guests never knew what hit them. The crash is still painful for his family, he said.

His wife, Debbie, and son, Jesse, were not seriously hurt, but the boat's propeller sliced through Maher's right hand, severing tendons and ligaments. He was in the hospital for eight days after the crash and still has not regained the full use of his hand.

A schoolteacher, Maher has been on medical leave since the accident and still must undergo physical therapy. Even now, his son sometimes talks about the night of the crash.

"It's still a very big part of our lives," Maher said.

Campbell Commonwealth's Attorney Jack Porter said one challenge in prosecuting the case is the lack of eyewitnesses. Passengers aboard Colann's boat were below deck, in a cabin.

Porter said that other boaters reported seeing a 40-foot Baja speedboat traveling at high speed about the time of the wreck. The investigation narrowed when the mayor of Moscow, Ohio, reported seeing a Baja matching the description of the hit-and-run speedboat being taken out of the water from a public boat ramp in the village.

Five days later, investigators seized Colann's Baja boat called "Snap Decision."

Maher said he remembers little about the crash because it happened so quickly. "We didn't see it coming and we didn't see it going," he said. He hopes the legal proceedings shed light not only on the collision, but also on the reasons the driver of the other boat did not stop to help.

"I have a hard time understanding how someone could do that," Maher said.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com and dhorn@enquirer.com




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