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The captain of a boat that crashed into another in a fatal collision that killed two people told an investigator he didn’t know how he didn’t see the other vessel.
Clarence Barry White is facing two counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the June 9, 2018, collision that killed Chris Melanson and Justin MacKay.
On Thursday, White’s statement to a Transport Canada investigator was played in P.E.I. Supreme Court in Charlottetown during the third day of his trial.
White was the captain of the Forever Chasin’ Tail when it collided with the Joel ’98, which Melanson and MacKay were on.
During the interview, White said he couldn’t understand how he didn’t see the Joel ’98 before the collision.
“It’s surreal to me, but I cannot explain it,” he said.
The trial previously heard from several witnesses who were on the Joel ’98 at the time of the collision who said it was stopped to haul traps at the time of the collision.
Two witnesses testified that they saw the Forever Chasin’ Tail’s captain’s chair was empty when it hit their boat.
White’s son testified his father was in the chair at the wheel.
In his statement, White said he was sitting in the chair transcribing numbers to his logbook and would look up after every few numbers.
He addressed the allegation that he wasn’t in the chair at the time, which he said the captain of the Joel ’98 yelled at him after the crash.
“That’s 110 per cent totally false,” White said.
During the interview, White told the investigator he was in the chair transcribing, and the next thing he remembered was looking up to see the Joel ’98 there.
He said he grabbed the wheel and throttle and thought he put the boat in reverse.
When White’s son testified earlier in the trial, he told the court the boat was on autopilot at the time of the collision, and there was no change in direction or speed before it hit the Joel ‘98.
White said it’s “tearing him to pieces” knowing what happened and that it could have been preventable.
He didn’t want the tragedy to happen, White said.
“I didn’t want families to be torn apart, but it happened and I can’t fix it.”
On Thursday, Melanson’s daughter, Bella Melanson, also testified about the events leading up to the collision and what she had planned to be a good day on the water with her father, who wanted to go fishing.
She told the court they took a picture on the Beach Point wharf and she later got another one of him holding a lobster on the boat.
“That is my last memory of him,” Bella said.
During her testimony, Bella said she remembered seeing the belly of White’s vessel as it went over top of the Joel ’98.
She said her most vivid memory is looking up at how big the Forever Chasin’ Tail was as it came crashing down.
“It was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.
Bella told the court someone helped her get to the Forever Chasin’ Tail where she went under a table in the cabin after learning her father was in the water.
“I plugged my ears and I screamed,” she said.
She said she remembered screaming because she genuinely didn’t want to know what was going on around her.
At one point, she saw a limp hand on the boat’s deck and thought it was her father’s.
She didn’t know that her father had been pulled out of the water onto another boat that had come along to help.
Once they were back at the wharf, Bella said one of the Joel ’98’s crew helped her out of the boat, and she told him she didn’t want to know or see anything.
The trial resumes Friday.
Ryan Ross is The Guardian's justice reporter