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Woman tells court she didn't see Linda O'Leary drink after boat crash that killed 2

A friend of Linda O'Leary's son testified Tuesday that she didn't see O'Leary drink any alcohol, nor did she see anyone hand her a drink after the fatal August 2019 boat crash on Lake Joseph north of Toronto.

O'Leary has pleaded not guilty to a charge of careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act

A view from the Hamer Bay Marine looking out into Hamer Bay in the Muskoka region north of Toronto. The bay connects to Lake Joseph, where a deadly boat crash took place on Aug. 24, 2019. Linda O'Leary is on trial on a charge of careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act in connection with the crash, which killed two people. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

A young woman says she didn't see Linda O'Leary drink any alcohol, nor did she see anyone hand her a drink after a boat crash that killed two people.

O'Leary — the wife of celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary — has pleaded not guilty to a charge of careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act in connection with the Aug. 24, 2019, crash on Lake Joseph, north of Toronto. She is standing trial in provincial court in Parry Sound, Ont. 

Francesca Hawkes, a friend of O'Leary's son, Trevor, was at the family's cottage when the fatal collision took place. 

Witness didn't see O'Leary drink after crash

Hawkes says she helped care for another passenger who was injured after the O'Leary boat returned to the cottage, but did not see O'Leary drink anything or hear her mention alcohol.

Court has heard O'Leary was at the helm when the boat struck another vessel on Lake Joseph. Kevin O'Leary, the former star of the CBC show Dragons' Den, was also aboard, as was one of their friends.

An Ontario Provincial Police officer testified Monday that Linda O'Leary registered an "alert range" blood alcohol level in a breath test shortly after the incident, but that O'Leary told her she had only had one drink, and it was after the crash.

OPP Const. Michelle Ingham said O'Leary told her she couldn't say how strong the drink was because it was handed to her by someone else.

The defence has suggested the other boat did not have its lights on when it was hit. 

Group heard 'massive bang'

Hawkes told the court Tuesday that she and a group that included Trevor O'Leary were having a bonfire in a spot overlooking the lake when they saw the O'Leary boat approach and heard "a massive bang."

The 24-year-old said she immediately knew from the sound that another boat had been struck, but that no other vessel could be seen.

Seconds later, she said, another boat turned on its lights.

"It was completely dark and then all the lights lit up," she testified. "You could very clearly see that it was another boat once those lights were on."

The O'Learys could be heard asking if anyone was hurt, but Hawkes said she didn't hear a response. Shortly afterward, she said the other boat slowly left.

As a result, Hawkes said she assumed there were no serious injuries on the other boat. It was only after police arrived that she said she learned people had been critically hurt.

Gary Poltash, left, and Suzana Brito are seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe campaign for Brito's children. The two were killed in the August 2019 boat crash. (GoFundMe)

2 killed, three injured in crash

Gary Poltash, 64, from Florida, died on shore that night, while Suzana Brito, 48, from Uxbridge, Ont., died in hospital a few days later.

An agreed statement of facts read in court on the first day of trial last month said the two died as a result of blunt force trauma, to either the head or the head and neck, from being struck by a boat.

Three people were also injured in the crash. The operator of the other boat, Richard Ruh, of Orchard Park, N.Y., was also charged in the incident. He faced one count of failing to exhibit a navigation light while underway.

Ruh previously told court he was issued a ticket and paid the fine after contesting it for more than a year.

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