Driver in Boating Accident Could Face Charges of Homicide by Watercraft - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Driver in Boating Accident Could Face Charges of Homicide by Watercraft

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KENNEWICK, Wash-- The Benton County Sheriff's Office said they searched today by plane and boat looking for shadows in the river hoping to find Ed Gilbert's body. 

Last Saturday 74 year-old  Ed Gilbert went missing after his anchored boat was hit by 51 year old Michael Nethercutt's smaller boat at full speed.
 
Nethercutt was the subject of a probable cause court hearing this morning. He appeared on the phone from Kennewick General Hospital.

There will be another hearing tomorrow to set bail. A Benton County Sheriff's Deputy is outside his room around-the-clock.

Kennewick Attorney, Kevin Holt says homicide by watercraft is the exact same thing as vehicular homicide.

"The only difference is it is committed on the water as opposed to on a street or a roadway," said Holt.

The laws for alcohol use in Washington State are the same, whether your on the waterway or the roadway. Holt says homicide by watercraft happens much less frequently than vehicular homicide.

"It may also result in the fact that there's less people on the water driving boats than there are people on any one day on the roads," said Holt.

It's not illegal to be on a boat and drink in the Columbia River but it is illegal to drink and be the driver the of that boat.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office says alcohol may have been a factor in this weekends tragic accident.  

"If your going to drink and boat you better be responsible, and have a designated driver, it's just like a car," said Holt.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office found alcohol on Nethercutt's boat today but cannot determine if he was drinking until toxicology reports return.

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