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Driver in fatal boat accident pleads not guilty

BY KEITH LACEY Rod and Rita Schutt were with their two children in a friend's boat on Ramsey Lake when a speed boat flew by them.

Rod and Rita Schutt were with their two children in a friend's boat on Ramsey Lake when a speed boat flew by them.

"Within seconds of passing us, it crashed," Rita Schutt testified Tuesday, on the opening day of the trial against Michael Christakos, 41.

Christakos has pleaded not guilty to seven charges in the June 2003 collision, which claimed the life of Samuele Pisani, 23.

Christakos has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death, impaired driving causing death, two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, dangerous driving, having more than the legal limit of alcohol in his system while operating a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident.

Rita Schutt said she felt very uncomfortable with a boat travelling at that speed coming within 50 feet of the boat she was in.

Earlier in the day, the eight-man, four-woman jury heard assistant Crown attorney Len Walker inform them Christakos admitted to a police officer he
was one of the drivers in the collision on June 21, 2003.

Rod Schutt testified a boat whipped by him at speeds he estimated to be about 35 miles an hour. There were three people on the passing boat, but he didn't know or recognize any of them.

After the collision, the boat he was in rushed to the scene. His family and friends offered help to people in both boats. He observed the driver of the speed boat appeared to be in shock and was unresponsive when asked if everyone in his boat was accounted for, he said.

He also noticed the mother in the other boat "was frantic" because both her children appeared injured. The mother and her two children were rushed to shore and taken away in an ambulance, he said.

When asked if he observed any alcohol at the scene, Schutt and his wife both testified they saw one beer bottle floating near the scene of the accident.

In his opening address to the jury, Walker told the jury Christakos was on Ramsey Lake with friends around 5 pm when he asked to borrow a
friend's high-powered speed boat, which he took on a cruise at high speeds with Pisani and another passenger.

The boat being driven by Christakos collided with a boat near Cooper's Island causing Pisani to go flying into the water and children in the other boat to suffer injuries, said Walker.

Christakos was identified by witnesses on shore as a driver. Even though he was told by firefighters to remain, he left the scene and went to where his boat was originally located, said Walker.

A police officer on marine patrol arrived and while talking to Christakos someone noticed "Sam was missing" and police and firefighters began to dive in the water looking for him, said Walker.

When an officer approached Christakos, he went inside his boat and changed his clothing before talking to the officer and muttering "I won't deny driving" one of the boats in the collision, said Walker.

Officers on shore noticed a smell of alcohol and other signs of impairment. Two breathalyser tests revealed Christakos had well over double the legal limit allowed to operate a motor vehicle in Canada in his blood, said Walker.

The focus of the case, said Walker, will focus on how the accident took place and whether Christakos' driving contributed to the collision, he said.

He told the jury he doesn't believe the issue of who was driving the boat Pisani was on will be a contentious issue during this trial.