Posted: Nov 1, 2012 8:32 AM by Mike Powers - MTN News
Updated: Nov 1, 2012 9:26 AM
MISSOULA - An end of summer celebration, a dark lake and high speeds combined to cause a 2009 boat crash that injured Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg and others, according to a just-released edited version of a pre-sentencing report.
The document, detailing what Rehberg and other witnesses had to say about the accident, says that Rehberg and staff members were having an end of summer dinner with former state senator Greg Barkus at a Lakeside restaurant on Flathead Lake.
A waitress and the dinner bill indicated Barkus had two Dewar's scotch drinks and later drank some red wine.
The group went to return to Bigfork by boat, and passengers said that Barkus was the only one driving. The boat didn't have a spotlight and Barkus was having trouble with his GPS and got lost.
Rehberg staff member Kristin Smith said the boat was going full-speed straight ahead. Testimony said speeds may have reached 45 mph when the boat hit the rocky shoreline, injuring all five people on board. Rehberg suffered a broken ankle.
Investigators say Barkus had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. He blew a .16, twice the legal limit, when tested an hour and 45 minutes after accident, according to the documents.
First responder Nathan Reiner of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said that rescue personnel told him that Barkus smelled of alcohol, but months later they wouldn't admit to that.
Barkus later pleaded no contest to charges of felony criminal endangerment.
The report said that Congressman Rehberg did not provide a victim's impact statement. On the night of the accident, he did say that Barkus was driving and that they had drinks.
Wednesday, shortly after the papers were released, the Rehberg campaign said, "Denny supports Judge McKeon's decision to release the report to the public despite the fact that the group requesting its release did so for purely political purposes and has strong ties to the Democrat Party."
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington., D.C. sought release of the documents. Rehberg is in a tight U.S. Senate race with incumbent Jon Tester.Tester's campaign manager Preston Elliott released the following statement in reaction to the release of the documents.
"This report raises more questions about Congressman Rehberg's gross failure of accountability and his dishonesty with Montanans about what truly happened that night. Congressman Rehberg wants us to believe there were ‘no signs of impairment,' but these records indicate a much different story about a night of heavy drinking," he said in a prepared statement.
"More importantly, Congressman Rehberg made a decision to put his two young staffers on a boat with a driver who was obviously and severely drunk - a decision that changed lives forever. That kind of personal irresponsibility has no place in Congress," the statement concluded.
Finally, Barkus also issued a statement on Wednesday stating, "I don't understand why the media feels this is still newsworthy. One thing I want to make clear is people have referred to that night as a 'night of drinking,' that's completely inaccurate."