Prosecutors Monday chose to go with reckless-homicide charges against an Irmo boater accused in the deaths of two women in a late-night crash on Lake Murray.
Assistant Solicitor Carter Potts didn’t explain why previous charges of homicide from driving a boat while intoxicated were set aside, although Circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. told prospective jurors testimony may occur about alcohol consumption prior to the collision.
The change came at the opening of the trial of Steven Kranendonk, 26 accused of driving a boat that collided with another carrying friends Kelli Bullard, 25, of Lexington and Amber Golden, 24, on the night of May 1, 2010. The women died in the crash.
The prosecutors’ move occurred before natural resources officers testified Monday that Kranendonk passed an initial sobriety check using physical and verbal cues within two hours of the crash, with a blood test to check intoxication subsequently taken five hours after the collision once the deaths were known.
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His blood-alcohol level was 0.011, court records say. That is above the 0.08 percent considered legally impaired in operation of a vehicle in South Carolina.
Kranendonk’s lawyer Jonathan Harvey is seeking to bar use of the test, saying it was given before officers had reason to seek it.
Natural resources officer Rhett Bickley Jr. testified that a blood test for intoxication is standard once it is clear that a fatality has occurred.
Kranendonk admitted drinking alcohol earlier in the day, Bickley said.
But the only beverages found on his boat after the crash were flavored water and soft drinks, natural resources officer Kevin Roosen testified.
Cooper took the dispute on the blood-alcohol test under study as jury selection began in the trial in Richland County court. A jury had been chosen by Monday night; proceedings will continue today.
Prosecutors also said an animated re-creation of the crash — created by state troopers who are specialists in reconstructing accidents — won’t be used in the trial. The analysis is “not scientific in nature,” assistant prosecutor Potts told Cooper. It’s the first re-creation of a boat crash in South Carolina.
The crash in which the women perished was one of a pair that occurred within minutes of each other in a heavily traveled area in the northeast corner of the 47,500-acre lake, leaving four deaths overall.
Those collisions spurred concern about danger on the lake after dark, producing a campaign against reckless boating that continues today.