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DA, wife survive boat crash

August 30, 2011

Catawba County’s district attorney and his wife say they are thankful to be alive after a boat wreck threw them overboard Sunday evening.

Twenty-fifth Prosecutorial District Attorney Jay Gaither said he was blinded by bright lights before a boat he was driving crashed into another vessel on Lake Hickory on Sunday.

Gaither said he and his wife were celebrating their 17th anniversary on the lake Sunday evening and were driving down river at about 5 mph.

After deciding to return home, Gaither said he made a wide, sweeping U-turn and accelerated his 1981 MasterCraft up to about 20 mph. Near the end of the turn, Gaither said he “lost vision due to six very bright lights” on the shore and collided with another boat heading down river.

The impact threw Gaither and his wife, Beth, into the water.

“There were bright lights, and then there was a boat between me and those bright lights,” Gaither said, adding the bright lights came from five or six houses on the Alexander County side of the lake. “By the time I was into that turn, the collision took place immediately at the same time I saw the lights. I didn’t have time to decelerate at all.”

Investigators with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said they still are piecing together exactly what happened to cause the collision. Their investigation shows that Gaither’s boat collided with a SeaRay driven by Kevin Propst of Hickory as it made the turn.

Victoria Bryant of Hudson and a juvenile male also were occupants of the boat driven by Propst.

Lt. Michael Hatley of the Wildlife Commission said Propst and his passengers helped the Gaithers out of the water and dropped them off at a dock.

They then traveled to the Oxford boat access area where emergency personnel was contacted. Hatley said the adults were treated at the scene, but the juvenile was taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries.

Because the MasterCraft is an older model boat, it does not have a “kill switch” and continued along the water until it struck a boat dock, Gaither said.

After impact with the SeaRay operated by Propst, Gaither’s boat ran up on a nearby boat dock, crossed one boat and landed on a jet ski at the boat slip, Hatley said. The second collision caused damage to the dock and Gaither’s boat, he said. A homeowner on Sulphur Springs Road called 9-1-1 after Gaither’s boat hit the dock. She told 9-1-1 dispatchers that the run-away boat completely crushed her boat and jet ski parked in her dock.

One aspect that has not been determined is if the boats’ navigational lights were on when they collided, more than an hour after the sun went down. Hatley said by state law, boats are required to have navigational lights on after sunset.

Wildlife Commission officers are continuing their investigation of the wreck but said alcohol was not involved in the crash. Gaither said that neither he nor his wife had been or were consuming alcohol.

Hatley indicated that no charges have been filed in the boating collision, noting that it could take some time to piece together exactly what happened.

“When you have something like this that happens without other witnesses, it takes a while to put it all together,” he said. “We’ll have to look at the damage to the boats, distances traveled and other factors. We need to look at the totality of the situation to determine what led to the crash.”

Gaither said he and his wife were thankful the incident wasn't worse.

“We thank God we weren’t injured or killed,” Gaither said. “We went home, kissed all four of our children, and said we are thankful to God and that we will wake up in morning. We said it will be a new day.”

Gaither said he has a boater’s safety certificate, said he has been boating on Lake Hickory for 42 years.

“I have a very keen sense of respect for the water and respect for boating,” Gaither said, adding that the incident took place in a blink of an eye and was a potentially life-threatening situation.

Lenoir News Topic Editor Nathan Key contributed to this story.


DA Gaither

August 31, 2011 by onestepahead (not verified), 3 years 37 weeks ago
Comment: 649

If you wanted Bob Grant you should have and maybe did vote for him. If you don’t like Gaither vote him out, if you can… As far as someone that’s not a member of the bar only one problem there. To be a DA you first must be an attorney to be an attorney you must be a member of the bar. It sure does look like you are having a bad day you poor little baby.

Give me a FREAKIN break!

August 30, 2011 by Backbone (not verified), 3 years 38 weeks ago
Comment: 647

"Lucky to be alive after a FREAKIN 5 Mile Per Hour Boat Cruise! Heck I can walk faster than 5 Miles per hour! LOOKS like he is about as good a nautical navigator as he is a public servant. He sure is accident prone! First he is somehow invovled in a suspicious Bicycle Wreck, now a non-alcoholic boat wreck! You know this is WAY TOO MUCH! Think of how much better a D.A. we would have had if the wise and steady and genteel Bob Grant was elected. After the cocaine fueld offenses of Flaherty now all this, I actually think, for once the Democrat should have won! Some where Snuffy Green is laughing his head off!

We need to DRAFT someone to run as an independent and clean up this mess around here, someone with no baggage, and no close ties tot he BAR association (or tied to a bar period!)

I sure hope the Game Warden was not "influenced" not to do a blood or breath test!


DA, wife survive boat crash

August 30, 2011 by tigerwillie (not verified), 3 years 38 weeks ago
Comment: 646

No alcohol involved, yeah right. :-)

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