Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New info on Flathead Lake Crash

OK, so I guess the headline might be a little deceiving because quite honestly, there isn't much new news to report at all. The Flathead County Sheriff's Office is still saying very little and State Sen. Greg Barkus, the man behind the wheel of the boat that crashed high on the rocks on the shore of Wayfarers State Park, refuses to talk to authorities or the press.

Meanwhile, we still don't have any indication from the Flathead County Sheriff's Office as to whether they think alcohol played a role in the crash. If you look here, here, here, here, and here (these are just a handful of recent examples) you'll notice that authorities in these cases stated whether or not they believed alcohol was factor in the crash within a day or two of the incident. That's almost always the first question investigators try to answer in an incident like this, and it's usually found in the first or second paragraph of any crash write-up in the newspaper. I would think that after interviewing people who were on the boat, people who were at the dinner party in Lakeside earlier that night and officers and emergency personnel at the scene of the crash authorities should have some indication by now as to whether or not Barkus had been drinking. It's been nearly a full week since the crash--which left five people injured including a sitting U.S. congressman and a state senator and left one victim in what appears to be a coma--and the authorities have still not answered the most burning question about this case. And that's even after said congressman, Denny Rehberg, admitted the day after the crash that he had been drinking at a dockside dinner with Barkus earlier that night.

The issue is whether Barkus was impaired at the time of the crash. Police apparently did not test the victims at the scene. Understandably, their priority was getting the severely injured passengers to the hospital ASAP. Once at the hospital, any blood tests done on Barkus or anyone else immediately becomes part of their medical record, which is protected under the federal HIPAA. Barkus appears to be resisting the release of those records to authorities, because the Flathead Co. Sherrif's Office had to issue a subpoena for them.

Barkus' medical records have been subpoenaed, so hopefully we'll be able to clear this up once and for all by the end of the week.

Here's something to consider when thinking about BAC: it goes down shortly after you stop drinking. So for instance, in Rehberg's case, his BAC was .054, or about .026 below the legal limit, when doctors drew his blood at 12:58 a.m. That was about 2 hours and 40 minutes after the crash occurred. According to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, BAC decreases at a rate of about .015-.020 per hour. So let's assume Rehberg weighs somewhere between 160 to 180-pounds. For a male that size, in 2 hours and 40 minutes his BAC would have decreased by approximately .03 to .04. So, at the time of the crash, Rehberg's BAC was likely over the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

However, I want to stress that Rehberg, by all accounts, was never behind the wheel of the boat, so whether or not he was legally impaired or not is not the issue here. Authorities have already said they don't expect any charges against Rehberg.

But people still have a lot questions that need to be answered.


This is an interesting tidbit that the Missoula Independent dug up about Barkus' 2005 reckless driving charge:

We've since learned, through a report with Lake County Justice Court obtained by Indy staff reporter Jessica Mayrer, that Barkus was originally charged with DUI. He was operating a 2000 white Corvette with vanity plates reading "DREAM IT." Barkus was stopped going 84 mph in a 65-mph zone and found to be under the influence.(emphasis added)

He subsequently pleaded not guilty and was convicted of reckless driving, a misdemeanor.

So it appears this isn't the first time Barkus has hired Kalispell attorney Todd Glazier to represent him in a sticky situation.

For those who are interested, here's a copy of the two tickets Barkus received for his reckless driving incident in Lake County:

Also, James Connor at the Flathead Memo has an interesting hypothesis about the conditions Barkus and his ill-fated passengers faced as they left the dock at Lakeside Thursday night. It's worth a read. Here's a snip:
The end of astronomical twilight was still 20 minutes away when Barkus pointed his boat northeast and advanced the throttle. As the U.S. Naval Observatory notes, “…for a considerable interval…before the end of evening [astronomical] twilight, sky illumination is so faint that it is practically imperceptible.” To the northwest, various objects would be faintly silhouetted against against the residual light, but the lake’s eastern shore was much darker. Light from the moon may have provided some help, and there may have been a moon streak on the water that commanded the attention of some on board. Full dark adaptation of the human eye requires 20–30 minutes; longer if exposed to bright light while adapting.
That's all for now. Keep checking back. I'll keep you updated on developments as soon as we have them.


JC said...

Daily Interlake quotes County Attorney Corrigan:

"We do have reason to believe [Barkus' was drinking that night," said Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan, who declined to go into further specifics.

Anonymous said...

The Flathead County Attorney and the police are going to be under alot of pressure from the Barkus attorney, the political machine and Rehberg's PR staff to keep this off the front page and tv news. We frequently hear the call for politicians to come clean and yet it is a rare occurrence. Some of the injured will heal and be whole; Dustin Frost's condition is uncertain and he is being swept under a rug, surely he deserves someone being accountable for this.

Anonymous said...

As a retired State professional, and first I'd like to say I'm too old to care about whether a human being is a 'Dem or GOP'; inapropos & irrellevant.
What seemed wrong from the outset was the-unfortunate-blab some authority inflicted upon the ears of the witnesses [American Citizens] to "keep quiet", or similar violation of their civil rights, coming from a man [I'm assuming] a Badge and a Gun. i would be interested if the Commandant of that individual, whether they be State or County, will be forthcoming with an apology to the American Citizens for 'hurting their ears', at least after this Firestorm gets put out by Juris Process, hopefully.

Anonymous said...

i agre w/ 'retired',
the local monties have shot Their mouths off too much, wtf, is this nazi germany?
who was the name of that a..hole cop? what are ya gonna do about it, CHIEF?

Anonymous said...

and btw,
if the local constabulary can not bring itself to a stae of 'descent honesty before it's constituency; to wit; the american public, i only hope you reap the full wrath of American Law, in it;s 'best form, to eradicate you as the the criminals that we suspect yo are at present, 'as a great american stateman put it' , let's look at the record'.

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