KAMLOOPS - The shock of seeing a speedboat lodged inside a houseboat blinded police who were investigating a fatal 2010 crash on Shuswap Lake, a defence lawyer has argued.
Leon Reinbrecht's trial is in its final stages, with defence lawyer Joe Doyle providing an opening statement in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday morning, April 23, in Kamloops.
Reinbrecht has been charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily over the July 3, 2010, incident on Shuswap Lake that claimed the life of houseboat-operator Ken Brown.
"This case, on its face, with a motorboat inside a houseboat, is a shocking case," said Doyle. "It shocked many people."
Doyle said collective shock put blinders on investigators pursuing criminal charges against Reinbrecht, who was at the helm of the speedboat that collided nearly head-on with the houseboat.
The collision took place just after 11 p.m. and followed a post-Canada Day fireworks display on a section of the lake called Magna Bay.
Doyle called the police work "reverse engineering," of fitting evidence into the parameters of criminal charges, not recommending charges based on the evidence.
"The defence is going to say it's quite a different matter than that," Doyle said. "There are certain rules of the road that weren't followed (by the houseboat)."
Doyle said his case hinges largely on the houseboat's lights.
"You have a houseboat that was travelling at full throttle and it is not displaying navigational lights that are required and expected to be displayed by a vessel," he said.
"Mr. Reinbrecht collided with a houseboat that wasn't displaying navigational lights as required by Transport Canada."
The first defence witness, Justin Beaumont, is an expert in marine-vessel investigations, and he examined the boats' wreckage.
Beaumont said the houseboat's masthead light, a navigational light required to be operating, was not working and the wiring was disconnected.
Previous witnesses have given conflicting testimony about the houseboat's lighting.
Last week, Reinbrecht's trial ground to a halt after a Crown expert witness, an RCMP corporal who investigated the crash, made a phone call to Beaumont's employer, the Canadian Coast Guard, to see if he would be in conflict by giving defence evidence.
Cpl. Richard Harry said he called out of a sense of "loyalty to the Crown," a development B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan said was "concerning."
Another defence expert witness is expected to be called next week.