Iowa official responds to crash dismissal
BURLINGTON – An Iowa Department of Natural Resources officer who investigated a deadly Mississippi River boat crash is defending his conclusions following the dismissal of charges against both boat operators.
Paul Kay, who was assigned to lead the investigation into the May 2012 crash, said his 250-page report is accurate, The Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper reported.
“I don’t think the charges were dismissed because of my investigation,” he said Wednesday. “I’ll put my investigative abilities up against anyone in the state.”
The Des Moines County Attorney’s office dismissed charges Tuesday against Douglas Metcalf, 22, of Burlington. Charges against Joseph Schier, Jr., 22, also of Burlington, were dropped in June. Both men were driving jon boats when they collided head-on about four miles northeast of the U.S. Highway 34 bridge that connects Iowa with Illinois.
Schier was alone in the boat, but Metcalf’s boat had multiple people inside. Four passengers died and others were injured. The men were charged several months later with four counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of boating while intoxicated.
Officials said the state was unable to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Ty Rogers, an assistant Des Moines County attorney, added that the state could not rely on Kay’s reconstruction of the accident.
“Justice requires that the state not rely upon speculation, conjecture and assumption when proving a case,” he said in a release. “But, rather, a conviction must be based upon concrete evidence that proves each allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Rogers said prosecutors did not believe they could convince a jury that Metcalf and Schier were intoxicated while operating the boats. Both men had blood alcohol tests done several hours after the crash. Metcalf’s blood alcohol level was under the legal limit.
Prosecutors wanted to use a criminalist to determine if Metcalf’s blood-alcohol level was higher around the time of the crash, but officials failed to ask Metcalf specific questions about his alcohol consumption, a point that Rogers said would make the conclusions invalid.
Kay said he was focusing on recovery efforts immediately after the early-morning crash.
“I was more concerned about the four people who were missing and the rescue efforts that were still ongoing (rather than worry about prosecuting someone),” Kay said.
He also said: “It’s disappointing to me because I’d like to know who is going to speak up now for the victims of this tragedy,” Kay said. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims.”