KINGMAN — The Mohave County Attorney’s office is declining to file charges in a multiple-fatality boating crash on the Colorado River last Labor Day weekend.
Four California residents were killed when two boats were involved in a head-on collision just after 8 p.m. on Sept. 1 on a stretch of the river between Pirates Cove and the Topock Marina, north of Lake Havasu and south of Needles.
Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Anita Mortensen said 12 people were rescued after all 16 occupants of both vessels were tossed into the water at the point of impact. The dead whose bodies were recovered included the operator of one of the boats, Brian Grabowski, 49, of Tulare, and two passengers, Christine Lewis, 51, of Visalia, and Kirra Drury, 24, of Ventura.
The body of the fourth victim, Raegan Heitzig, 26, Ventura, has not been recovered despite exhaustive search efforts. Personnel from several area agencies scoured the river and riverbanks from the crash site all the way to Lake Havasu without finding a trace of Heitzig. Rescue and recovery efforts were scaled back in October after searches that included volunteers and professionals on the shore, in boats, diving under water, using drones, helicopters and sonar and using search-and-rescue K9 units all proved fruitless.
The driver of the other boat, Jereme Crist, 49, Victorville, California, survived his injuries.
Mortensen said Crist, with five passengers aboard, was operating a 26-foot Sleek boat that was southbound. She said Grabowski, with nine passengers aboard, was northbound in a 28-foot Hallet boat when the collision occurred. All of the deceased were on the Hallet.
None of the 16 people in the two boats involved were wearing life jackets.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Dean McKie said Deputy County Attorney Megan McCoy has informed the sheriff’s office that the surviving boat operator will not be prosecuted because “there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
McKie said the investigation determined that Crist and Grabowski were both at fault for operating the boats at unsafe speeds, in a narrow stretch of the river during a time of poor lighting and visibility. He said it was determined that both operators had alcohol in their systems, but level of impairment could not be measured due to delays with toxicological analysis.
McKie said investigators determined multiple factors were at play, but that the cause of the deadly crash can’t be tied to any single one of them.