Linda O’Leary, wife of entrepreneur and media personality Kevin O’Leary, had alcohol on her breath following a fatal crash involving a boat she was driving in cottage country north of Toronto last summer, according to recently unsealed search warrant documents obtained by CBC News.
“Mrs. O’Leary was administered an alcohol screening device test and registered an alert. She was subsequently served a three-day driver’s licence suspension,” Ontario Provincial Police allege in the documents. “Mrs. O’Leary claims to have consumed a drink of vodka following the collision and prior to the breath test.”
According to the documents, “O’Leary could not remember who handed her the drink of vodka following the collision.”
O’Leary’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said his client was not intoxicated at the time of the crash.
“This tragic accident had nothing to do with alcohol,” Greenspan wrote in an email to CBC News on Monday night.
“Linda O’Leary was not impaired; she is a highly experienced boater who was proceeding cautiously with due care and attention. She collided with a totally unlit boat on a moonless night which was invisible to any prudent operator. No one could have avoided the collision,” he said.
Under Ontario law, a three-day suspension typically occurs if a person’s blood-alcohol concentration is between 0.05 and 0.08 per cent. It is a criminal offence to drive at all with a concentration of 0.08 per cent or higher. The documents don’t state O’Leary’s blood-alcohol level.
The crash occurred around 11:30 p.m. ET Aug. 24 on Lake Joseph, in the township of Seguin, Ont. The documents say Gary Poltash and Susanne Brito “suffered severe head trauma” and died. Poltash, 64, was from Florida, and Brito, 48, was from Uxbridge, Ont.
Linda O’Leary is charged with careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act. If found guilty she could face a $10,000 fine. Richard Ruh was driving the other boat and is charged with failing to exhibit a navigation light while underway.
Mark Sandler represents Ruh and said his client will contest the charge against him, adding, “I do not intend to comment on any suggestions as to what the evidence does or does not show at this time but will do so of course in court.”
Passengers on 2nd boat ‘stargazing’
According to the search warrant, there were 12 people on board the second boat. It was owned by Irv Edwards, who had “turned over control of the vessel to Richard Ruh a short distance from shore.”
The documents state that a video from the Edwards property captures the boat shutting off its navigational lights after it pulled away from shore.
The passengers, who were leaving a dinner party, were heading out onto the lake to take in the night sky. The warrant documents note that “prior to 11:30 p.m., the navigational lights were turned off and the engine was stopped for the purpose of stargazing.”
O’Leary had also been at a dinner party and was driving her boat “at a substantial rate of speed” with her husband and a female passenger, according to the documents.
“Linda O’Leary failed to see the other vessel in time enough to avoid a collision,” the documents say.
Son called 911
Witnesses on board the Edwards boat told police “that their boat was well lit,” as was the O’Leary boat.
“A short verbal exchange took place between the occupants of the two vessels, however due to serious injuries in the struck vessel, they quickly proceeded to a nearby resort to meet ambulance,” the documents say.
The O’Learys returned to their property, where their son called 911.
Linda O’Leary was later treated for a minor ankle injury, and the female passenger for a minor head injury.
The documents also say “there is a number of camera locations on the O’Leary property” and that a digital video recorder was given to police by the couple, who claimed it contained evidence of the crash.
Investigators write they “are confident that the video provides evidence that the victim vessel had no lights on at the time of the collision.”
The warrant also says the video will be examined to “provide corroborating evidence of the operator of the vessel and the possibility that Linda O’Leary was consuming alcohol following the collision.”
The document lists the video recorder as a FLIR DVR114P0. The company sells cameras with thermal imaging, night vision and gas detection.
Advertisements for the company on Youtube feature testimonials of Americans, including a marine, a member of the National Guard and a fire chief.
A “Report to Justice” court document shows that a video from the O’Leary property was taken into police custody on Sept. 3 and is being kept in the OPP evidence vault in Orillia.
Police originally asked that the search warrant applications be sealed to “protect the integrity of the police investigation” and because they believed Kevin O’Leary’s high profile would attract media attention.
CBC News filed an application to lift that sealing order, and on Monday the court granted the request.
The O’Leary case will be back in court on Jan. 16.