Posted: Oct 31, 2012 7:06 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Oct 31, 2012 7:45 PM
KALISPELL- A newly released report offers more details into a 2009 boating crash involving former state Senator Greg Barkus, but offers no details showing any improprieties on the part of Congressman Denny Rehberg.
Barkus and his wife, Rehberg and two aides were traveling back across Flathead Lake after having dinner, when Barkus crashed the boat into the rocks at Wayfarer State Park outside Bigfork.
Barkus later pleaded no contest to charges of felony criminal endangerment.
The 155-page pre-sentencing report was released today, with some information redacted, on the order of a judge.
Barkus told investigators he was asked by Rehberg to "share an evening on Flathead Lake" as a way to unwind at the end of the summer.
"The Congressman and I have spent several nights and days on the lake without incident," Barkus is quoted as saying in the report.
Investigators found Barkus had consumed "one hard liquor drink" during dinner, and according to Smith, had spent the rest of the evening drinking wine.
In the report, investigators say Barkus' boat wasn't equipped with a spotlight and the senator was navigating by GPS. However, Rehberg's aide Kristin Smith said at one point Barkus "appeared to be confused about their direction of travel", saying he appeared to be "turned around".
The boat crashed into the rocks shortly after, at an estimated speed of between 30 and perhaps as fast as 45 miles per hour.
As far as Rehberg's involvement in the wreck, there are limited mentions of the Congressman in the report. Investigators say Rehberg declined to provide them with a Victim's Impact Statement.
However, later in the report, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden said he'd interviewed Rehberg in his hospital room after the wreck. The warden said Rehberg told him he remembered leaving the Lakeside dock with Barkus behind the wheel and using the GPS. But
Rehberg admitted he didn't "know much about GPS" or what Barkus was looking at.
Rehberg told FWP he remembered looking up and seeing the shore right before they hit, or who might have yelled out a warning. He did tell the warden Barkus was the only one that had been driving the boat. The warden described Rehberg as "alert" during the interview and making sure everyone's families had been contacted.
Rehberg also told Flathead County Sheriff's deputies during dinner he had "went over to the bar and bought a beer" then spent time "working the crowd until dinner."
However, the report focuses on Barkus' alcohol consumption and conditions since he was driving the boat.