Toronto

Passenger can't recall which lights were on when O'Leary's boat struck vessel

A woman who was on a boat during a fatal collision on a central Ontario lake acknowledged under cross-examination Wednesday that she can't clearly recall how many of the boat's lights were on when it was struck by the other vessel.

2 people died as a result of the crash

Witness Irv Edwards, left is questioned by Crown attorney Samir Adam at the trial of Linda O'Leary Monday. O'Leary's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, sits in the foreground. (Pam Davies/CBC)

A woman who was on a boat during a fatal collision on a central Ontario lake acknowledged under cross-examination Wednesday that she can't clearly recall how many of the boat's lights were on when it was struck by the other vessel.

Susan Auricchio testified this morning at the trial of Linda O'Leary, who is charged under the Canada Shipping Act in connection with the incident.

Auricchio initially told the court that the boat she was aboard the night of Aug. 24, 2019 had all of its lights on, including at the time of the collision.

She and a group of friends and acquaintances had gone out on Lake Joseph, north of Toronto, to stargaze after a dinner party hosted by Irv Edwards, court has heard. Edwards was keen to take people out on his new boat, though he handed over the controls to a friend early in the outing, she said.

When they stopped on the lake, the boat's navigational lights and its dashboard were on, Auricchio said, noting it did not interfere with the group's ability to see the stars. "To my recollection, the lights were never off," she said.

Under cross-examination, however, she acknowledged telling prosecutors in a statement this past April that she couldn't say "for sure" which lights were on aside from the boat's computerized control panel.

A view of Hamer Bay, which connects to Lake Joseph, where two boats crashed around 11:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 24, 2019. One was driven by Linda O'Leary, wife of businessman and reality TV star Kevin O'Leary, and the other by Richard Ruh. Two people died as a result of the crash. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Court heard she told the Crown at that time that while the lights were on when the group set out, she couldn't say if that was still the case "at the time of the actual accident" because she was focused on her safety.

"I thought I was going to die so I wasn't really paying attention to the lights," she said in the statement, which was read
in court.

Auricchio, an insurance worker living in New York State, also viewed security footage of the lake from that night and agreed with the defence that it appeared to show the boat's lights being turned off at one point.

"I take it [that] what this demonstrates is that your recollection is incorrect," defence lawyer Brian Greenspan told
her.

"At that point, yes," she replied.

The status of the boat's lights is a central point in the case, with the defence suggesting the boat was not visible at the time of the collision because its lights were off.

Two people were killed in the crash. Gary Poltash, 64, from Florida, died that night after the damaged boat returned to shore. Suzana Brito, 48, from Uxbridge, Ont. died in hospital days later.

Three people were also injured.

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, which federal prosecutors have said could carry a fine of up to $10,000 if she is convicted.

An agreed statement of facts said she was operating the boat when the collision took place. Her husband was also aboard.

Kevin O'Leary, the former star of the popular CBC show Dragons' Den, also stars in the ABC show Shark Tank. He briefly sought the leadership of the federal Conservatives in 2017.

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