Testimony began Monday in P.E.I. Supreme Court in the trial of a Charlottetown man accused of operating a Sea-Doo in a manner that was dangerous to the public.
James Frederick Wilson was charged following an incident in the Charlottetown Harbour in August of last year in which the Sea-Doo he was driving was alleged to have struck another watercraft.
In her opening remarks, Crown Counsel Lisa Goulden told Justice Benjamin Taylor that Wilson’s conduct went beyond carelessness. She said a reasonable sailor would have foreseen the risks he was taking on this occasion and taken steps to avoid those risks.
Steven LeClair, an RCMP staff sergeant with the Whistler/Pemberton RCMP, told the court he was out on his powerboat on the day in question and witnessed the incident. He said he was travelling about 35 kilometres an hour when he heard the Sea-Doo Wilson was said to be operating.
LeClair estimated the speed of that Sea-Doo at between 75 and 80 kilometres per hour.
He said the Sea-Doo jumped his wake about 20 feet behind him.
The driver fell off the Sea-Doo but the momentum of the motor craft kept it moving forward.
LeClair said the now riderless Sea-Doo became airborne, rising six inches or so out of the water. When it landed, it skipped across the water towards him. At some point the nose of the Sea-Doo dug into the water and changed direction, veering away from his boat and towards a Zodiac-style inflatable watercraft operated by a teenage girl. The Sea-Doo slammed into the victim’s Zodiac, LeClair said.
The impact of the Sea-Doo hitting the Zodiac was such that the victim was thrown 10 feet in the air, Leclair added.
This happened about a mile from the Charlottetown Yacht Club where LeClair’s boat and the victim’s boat were both headed.
LeClair, who’s been boating for 35 years, said crossing somebody’s wake when you don’t know the operator of that boat was a rude thing to do and that there is an inherent danger in operating a vessel in that manner.
During cross-examination Wilson’s defence counsel, Brendan Hubley, questioned LeClair’s estimate of the speed his client was travelling on the Sea-Doo.
He also questioned Wilson’s knowledge of inflatables like the one the victim was in.
He asked LeClair whether horsing around on the water on a Sea-Doo was a common occurrence.
LeClair said it was not uncommon.
On re-direct, Goulden asked LeClair how he arrived at his estimate of the speed Wilson was travelling.
LeClair said he based it in part on the fact that he was travelling at 30 kilometres an hour and Wilson was travelling much faster than he was.
“He overtook me rapidly,” LeClair said.
Others to testify included the teen who was bounced out of her inflatable watercraft when it was struck by the Sea-Doo.
She testified she didn’t know what happened between the time the Sea-Doo struck her and the time she was picked up and placed on another boat.
She said the Sea-Doo came from behind her, so she didn’t see the impact.
She was transported to hospital when they reached shore.
She did not suffer any serious injuries but did have a sore leg the next day and was left with a scar.
A male teen who was in the inflatable with the victim said he saw the Sea-Doo strike their inflatable and cast her into the water.
He said she was picked up by the operator of a second Sea-Doo.
Under cross-examination, he admitted it would not take much to bump someone off an inflatable.
The Guardian has chosen not to name either of the teenage witnesses because they are under 18.
Doug Gaudet, who was on another boat, testified he saw the Sea-Doo cross the wake of a boat.
He said the driver lost control and fell off.
He said he saw the riderless Sea-Doo keep going.
The Crown concluded its case Monday. The defence will present its case today.