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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Man in boating mishap faces charge

CATAWBA ISLAND, Ohio - A Florida man whose power boat landed in a clump of trees on an island off the Catawba Island peninsula has a July 17 court date on a charge of operating a boat while under the influence, officials said yesterday.

The Ohio Division of Watercraft charged Keith Brown, 54, of Fort Lauderdale after his 41-foot Tiara cabin cruiser struck the west side of Mouse Island, went onto the beach, and landed in a clump of trees Monday night.

Petty Officer Bill Colclough, a Coast Guard spokesman in Cleveland, said no one among the six people aboard the craft was seriously injured when it went airborne and landed in a clump of trees shortly before midnight Monday.

The incident was initially investigated by the Coast Guard's Marblehead station, almost in sight of the island near the Miller Boat Line's ferry dock.

The case was turned over to the division of watercraft.

The owner-operator was taken to custody by the division of watercraft, Mr. Colclough said.

Jeff Nehls, area supervisor for the division's Sandusky office, said Mr. Brown refused to take a test to determine his blood-alcohol level and was charged with one misdemeanor count of operating a boat while intoxicated, reckless operation, violating rules for an improper lookout, and safe speed.

The cabin cruiser apparently bounced off a large wave about 11:46 p.m. and slid up the beach, where it lodged in the trees. He estimated its speed between 20 and 30 miles an hour at the time.

"It was basically driven onto the island and slid up to its position on the ground," Mr. Nehls said. The boat sustained heavy damage, he said. The boat was heading from Kelleys Island to Catawba Island Township.

The boat was registered in Ohio. Mr. Nehls said he did not know the horsepower of the boat.

Guardsmen from the Marblehead station took the passengers to the nearby Miller Boat Line dock on Catawba Island.

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