Boater sentenced in 2017 accident
A 24-year-old Redmond man, Dillon C. Goforth, was sentenced Sept. 24, to 75 days in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility, in connection with a 2017 boat crash on Lake Billy Chinook that injured five of the boat's occupants.
On May 17, Goforth had pleaded no contest to third-degree assault, a Class C felony, and four counts of fourth-degree assault, and one each of recklessly endangering another person and boating under the influence of intoxicants, Class A misdemeanors, all of which occurred on June 24, 2017.
When deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene of the crash, Goforth was initially only cited for reckless operation of a boat, a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $6,250, according to Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche.
After learning of the crash on July 5, 2017, Leriche reviewed the wreckage and asked the Oregon Marine Board to assist with the investigation.
With marine officers from around Oregon, the board's Boating Accident Investigation Team examined the boat, a 1995 Bayliner Capri 2005, and the crash scene at Lake Billy Chinook, and interviewed those involved in the crash.
"The investigation revealed that Goforth rented the boat from Cove Palisades Resort and Marina in the early afternoon hours of June 24, 2017, and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and boating on the lake with his passengers, a 26-year-old woman, two 21-year-old women, a 22-year-old woman, and a 20-year-old male," said Leriche, noting that a 1-year-old child was also on the boat.
"In speaking with investigators, one victim described meeting up with a 'party barge' on the lake and all occupants taking pulls from a bottle of Jack Daniels."
"Another victim reported that she brought a half-gallon of tequila on the boat, which was half-consumed by the time of the crash," Leriche pointed out. "Still another victim reported seeing Goforth drinking a beer. One witness confirmed that at least one alcohol container was 'sunk' in the lake after the crash to avoid detection."
During the investigation, Goforths' passengers described him as "pretty intoxicated" and "buzzed," with one adding, "If he was sober, he probably wouldn't have crashed."
Marina employees told law enforcement that they witnessed Goforth jumping wakes with the boat at such speed that the entire body of the boat left the water. A marina employee attempted to wave Goforth in prior to the crash, but Goforth continued boating.
"Ultimately, the investigators determined that while swerving along the shoreline at full speed, Goforth struck the shore, ejecting passengers from his boat onto the shore and into the water," said Leriche.
As part of the plea agreement negotiated between prosecutor Brentley Foster, the county's chief deputy district attorney, and the Goforth's defense attorney, Todd Wilson, of Bend, Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ahern sentenced Goforth to 30 months in prison, but suspended the sentence with conditions.
The conditions include successfully completing an alcohol evaluation and any recommended treatment, attending a Victim Impact Panel, not consuming intoxicants, obeying all laws, and paying restitution in an amount to be determined by the court.
Goforth will also be unable to operate a boat for the next year and unable to register a boat in his name for the next three years. Additionally, Goforth was ordered to serve 15 days jail for each victim of the crash, but the judge allowed one 15-day sentence to run concurrently, based upon a victim impact statement made by one of the victims in support of Goforth.
If Goforth's three-year supervised probation is revoked, he will serve a 30-month prison sentence, without eligibility for time off of his sentence.
Leriche recognized the Warm Springs Police Department and Jefferson County
Sheriff's Office for their prompt response to the crash and efforts to assist the victims at the scene.
"The District Attorney's Office would like to express its gratitude to the Oregon Marine Board and BAIT investigators deputy Jason Denton, of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, deputy Charles Douglass, of the Lane County Sheriff's Office, senior OSP trooper Travis Ring, deputy Jerry Rollie, of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, and Dale Flowers, of the Oregon State Marine Board.
"Although Lake Billy Chinook is one of Oregon's largest and most popular recreational waterways, boating under the influence investigations and crashes are rare," said Leriche. "The professionalism, experience and guidance provided by the BAIT investigators was instrumental in achieving a successful result in this case."
Two counts of second-degree assault, four counts of third-degree assault, one count of fourth-degree assault, five counts of recklessly endangering another person, one of reckless operation of a boat, and one of second-degree criminal mischief were all dismissed.