QUEENSBURY — Alexander M. West, the Lake George man who police said was piloting the boat that struck another boat Monday night on Lake George, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring her mother, was arrested Friday morning in connection with the crash.
Four of the passengers were also charged by police as part of an investigation that police said is continuing.
West, 24, of Lockhart Mountain Road, Lake George, was charged with two felony counts of leaving the scene of a boating accident, one for the death of Charlotte McCue and the other for the injury to her mother, Warren County Sheriff Bud York said.
The passengers in his boat were charged with a variety of misdemeanors that accuse them of lying to police or hindering the investigation.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said in court Friday that West had been drinking much of the day before the crash, lied to police about what he drank and was believed to be "drunk" when the collision occurred. She said additional charges are possible, as authorities await test results from a sample of West's blood hours after the collision and investigate the actions of the group she said hid West and warned him as police searched for him early Tuesday.
West's lawyer, Steve Coffey, disputed the allegations, saying West was not drunk. A pending blood test will not show he was drunk, Coffey said, adding that it was unclear which boater was to blame for the boat crash.
He said West did not know anyone was hurt from the collision and he was not obligated to call 911 or remain at the scene. York disputed that claim, and state Navigation Law seems to belie it as well.
Also charged were:
- Matthew J. Marry, 28, of county Route 41, Kingsbury, charged with misdemeanor counts of hindering prosecution, making a punishable false written statement and offering a false instrument for filing. It was at his home that four members of the group, including West, hid after fleeing the boat crash, authorities said.
- Kristine C. Tiger, 28, Marry's live-in girlfriend, charged with misdemeanor hindering prosecution.
- Cara M. Canale, 27, of Albany, charged with misdemeanor counts of hindering prosecution and offering a false instrument for filing for allegedly lying to police and assisting West as he tried to avoid police. She may face an additional misdemeanor in Albany for allegedly making a false written statement to police there, Hogan said.
- Morland C. Keyes, 27, of Glens Falls, charged with misdemeanor making a false written statement and offering a false instrument for filing for allegedly lying to police.
All five pleaded not guilty in Lake George Town Court on Friday. West, Marry, Tiger and Canale were released on bail, and Keyes was released on her own recognizance.
West spoke sparingly, telling the judge he has been working as a front desk clerk at Marine Village Resort in Lake George, and had worked waiting tables in Colorado over the winter.
Relatives of Charlotte McCue, the girl who died in the crash, were in court for the arraignment. One man sobbed as Hogan described the crash and the defendants' actions.
The arrests came during a whirlwind Friday morning and afternoon that ended with arraignments before Justice Michael Stafford at which significant new details were released about the crash and the defendants' alleged actions.
Before those proceedings, West's father, Martin West, was waiting in the Sheriff's Office lobby for his son shortly after his arrest, and asked if he wanted to discuss the situation, said "It's unfortunate. The guy broke Navigation Law. It will all come out."
Asked if he meant his son or the other driver, Martin West nodded his head affirmatively at mention of the other driver.
McCue of Carlsbad, California, died in the accident, and her mother was hurt. They were among seven family members on a boat being driven by her grandfather, which police said was hit by one driven by Alexander West around 9:24 p.m. Monday. Police had previously said she was 9 years old, but corrected her age on Friday.
West's 21-foot powerboat was headed south and the 28-foot boat that the McCues were on was headed west when they collided. The boat operated by West hit the other boat from the side at a slight angle, police said.
Police said West's boat fled the scene and was abandoned minutes later at a motel on the lake, and the five occupants fled. A blood sample was taken from West the next morning to be tested for possible alcohol or drug content, but sheriff's officers had not received the results as of Friday afternoon.
Investigators believe West and his passengers had spent at least eight hours Monday at an annual lakeside party known as Log Bay Day, on the east side of the lake in Bolton.
Seven people were on the Gar Wood wooden boat that the McCues were on, and the girl and her mother were the only ones who were hurt.
Additional details about the crash and its aftermath were released Friday afternoon.
A surveillance camera from a lakeside home near the crash scene captured video of at least part of the collision. York said the video showed the McCue boat going slowly, and West's boat going "much faster," though he said speeds had not yet been calculated.
Hogan told Lake George Town Justice Michael Stafford that video and witnesses reported screaming seconds after the boat crash, and that the boat that fled the scene did so with its navigation lights out.
"The video solves a lot of issues," Hogan told defense lawyers in court Friday.
Coffey, though, said he watched it before the arraignment and said it was not "abundantly clear" what happened.
Authorities said West's boat stalled near the McCue boat after the collision, and that it was clear the craft had hit another boat and the occupants conspired about what to say about the incident after they left the scene.
"The witness (where the West boat was abandoned) heard them say, 'Don't say anything, don't text, don't put anything on social media,'" Hogan said in court.
Other witnesses at nearby Hearthstone Point Campground could hear cursing on the boat that was fleeing the accident scene, Hogan noted.
Marry and Tiger hid West at their county Route 41 home until Canale got a text message from West's mother at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday indicating that police had just left West's home and that he should leave Marry's home and be brought back to the West family's home on Lockhart Mountain Road, Hogan said in court.
"His parents texted, 'Get Alex and get him out of there.'" she told Stafford.
The group was at Log Bay Day from 10 a.m. until 6 or 6:30 p.m., Hogan said. Mary drove the group's boat so the group could get food at The Huddle restaurant in Bolton Landing after they left the party, and West was driving the boat — registered to his father — from Bolton Landing afterward. West had two drinks there after leaving Log Bay Day, Hogan said.
The misdemeanor charges are punishable by up to a year in Warren County Jail, while West could face up to seven years in state prison.
All of the cases were adjourned until mid to late August.