The operator of a power boat has been convicted of homicide by watercraft for a collision that killed a Seattle teacher last summer on Lake Washington.
A Renton man who admitted he had been drinking before a fatal boat collision on Lake Washington a year ago has been convicted of homicide by watercraft and two counts of assault by watercraft.
King County jurors had been deliberating for about a day before returning the verdict Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Richard Hicks, 47.
In addition, jurors found that Hicks was piloting the boat while under the influence of alcohol and with disregard for the safety of others at the time of the collision. Those factors will allow prosecutors to seek a longer sentence.
Prosecutors will seek a sentence of 51 to 61 months when Hicks is back in court on Sept. 4.
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Prosecutors said Hicks’ blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit when the speed boat he was operating slammed into a sailboat near Leschi Marina just after 10:30 p.m. on July 16, 2014. Seattle schoolteacher Melissa Protz was killed and two others aboard the sailboat were seriously injured.
During the trial, Hicks stipulated to the fact his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, but the defense blamed the collision on the operator of the sailboat, who had also been drinking.
After leaving Chandler’s Crabhouse on South Lake Union, Hicks piloted his 25-foot Baja power boat into Lake Washington, according to testimony during the two-week trial. Independent witnesses put his speed at between 40 and 45 mph when he collided with the 22-foot sailboat, which had no lights on.
The sailboat’s operator, Shreedhar Madavapeddi, had also been drinking and had a blood alcohol content of 0.13 to 0.14 percent, the jury heard.
Defense attorney Richard Hansen said Madavapeddi was to blame for the crash, arguing that his conduct was the “superseding cause” of Protz’s death and the injuries that were sustained, which therefore “negates Mr. Hicks’ conduct as a proximate cause.”
He said Hicks was an experienced boater who was piloting his vessel at 25 to 30 mph. Hansen told jurors Hicks was exercising ordinary care while Madavapeddi was “puttering along at 1 to 2 mph … across the fast lane of Lake Washington.”
Protz, 33, taught science at Assumption-St. Bridget School, a private school in Bryant neighborhood of Seattle. Her parents have filed a wrongful-death suit against Hicks.
Madavapeddi was crushed by the power boat and broke 17 of his 24 ribs, according to Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim. Another passenger on the sailboat, Kathleen Larsen, suffered critical head and shoulder injuries, she said.
In 2002, Hicks was arrested for investigation of DUI and reckless driving in King County. When evidence of the level of alcohol content in his system was suppressed in court, prosecutors amended his charge to reckless driving, according to documents filed in King County District Court. Hicks pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail, with all the time suspended.
After Tuesday’s verdict, Maggie Chambers, a friend of Protz’s, said she would keep Hicks in her prayers.
“Nothing is going to bring my friend back,” she said. “The whole thing was very tragic that it happened. He made a mistake. I hope he learns from it.”