The operator of a tugboat that killed two fishermen on June 19, 2010, first told authorities that a lookout was in place at the front of the barge, it was testified Friday.
Matt Majors of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said he spoke with Charles Warren Luetke soon after the tragic incident.
The witness said there actually was no lookout in place at the time of the fatal accident. He said the lookout had been told to go to the front of the barge, "but he did some other duties instead."
Luetke, 40, of Soddy Daisy, was charged with criminally negligent homicide.
He has asked for pretrial diversion, but prosecutor Cameron Williams denied the application. Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman is being asked to rule on whether the prosecutor abused his discretion in denying the diversion.
Under diversion, a charge can be taken off a person's record if they get in no further trouble for a certain period of time.
Officer Majors said numerous people on the boat who were interviewed confirmed there was no lookout.
He said shortly after the collision, the co-pilot of the tugboat came up to Luetke and told him he needed to go look at a small boat that was overturned in the wake of the barge. He said Luetke did so, while the co-pilot took the controls.
Richard Wilkey, 52, of Soddy Daisy and Tim Spidle, 42, of Elizabethton, Tn., were thrown from their fishing boat and died as a result of the crash. A third victim, 37-year-old David Wilkey, survived.
There is a negligence lawsuit pending in Federal Court.
The Bearcat tugboat, which is owned by Serodino Inc., was involved in two fatal collisions during a two-year period.
A North Carolina man – 53-year-old Jones Bower Bare of Traphill – died as a result of the injuries he suffered when the tugboat struck a fishing boat around 2 a.m. on June 26, 2009.
William Stevens – the tugboat operator when the first fatal wreck occurred – was not indicted in that incident.