Accusations fly in wake of boat crash that killed Pepin Academies director

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TAMPA — Anti-DUI lawyer Tom Carey and beer distributor Tom Pepin are pointing fingers at one another in two federal courtroom instances over an alcohol-related boat crash final yr that killed a Tampa educator and severely injured his daughter.

Craig Butz, 52, died Sept. 23 piloting Pepin’s private watercraft when it collided with Carey’s 34-foot motor boat in Clearwater Harbor. State investigators pinned the crash on Butz’s inattention and inexperience, and mentioned his alcohol consumption was a contributing issue.

Carey now alleges that Pepin offered the alcohol and was negligent in entrusting the 11-foot Sea-Doo to Butz. Pepin “ought to have identified that Butz was inebriated and that his capability to function the (Sea-Doo) was impaired,” Carey’s lawyer, Ted Shinkle, wrote in a Might 30 courtroom doc.

Butz’s blood-alcohol degree was measured at 0.15 p.c, or almost twice the extent at which the state presumes motorized vehicle drivers to be impaired. Earlier than his demise, he was govt director of Pepin Academies, a constitution faculty program that has benefitted from Pepin’s philanthropy.

Pepin’s personal declare, filed by lawyer Eric Thiel, alleges neglect by Carey, saying he breached an obligation to train affordable care by failing to keep up correct lookout whereas working his boat and failing to keep away from a collision.

Carey and Pepin aren’t looking for damages from one another; fairly, they individually are asking a choose to exonerate them from legal responsibility or a minimum of restrict their legal responsibility — and, if certainly one of them is discovered liable, to verify the opposite man helps foot the invoice.

Federal admiralty regulation restricts how a lot boat homeowners could be compelled to pay — usually, not more than the post-loss worth of the boat. That may be $3,000 within the case of Pepin’s 2016 Sea-Doo and $275,000 within the case of Carey’s 2018 Pursuit, based on estimates within the courtroom recordsdata.

Pepin’s lawyer wrote that he filed in federal courtroom in anticipation of claims by Butz’s property and minor daughter. The submitting calls for that Carey contribute to cost of any damages that Pepin may need to pay.

Pepin and Carey each denied negligence in response to one another’s allegations.

Carey, in an interview, referred to as the incident a “horrible tragedy.” He’s identified for outspokenness towards drunk driving, having misplaced his spouse to an alcohol-related crash in 1983. He’s a former state chairman for Moms Towards Drunk Driving.

Neither Pepin nor his lawyer responded to messages from the Tampa Bay Instances.

Butz’s widow, Tatum Murphy, referred inquiries to Natalie King, a former Pepin Distributing Co. worker and present Pepin marketing consultant who additionally served as a spokeswoman for Murphy within the aftermath of the crash. King is vice chairman of RSA Consulting Group. She has additionally served as a spokeswoman for Pepin Academies and for the Pepin household.

Her response suggests the courtroom exercise could all be for naught.

Murphy isn’t planning to sue, King mentioned.

“Grief, coupled with worry, coupled with all these different feelings, these are very highly effective issues the household is coping with,” King mentioned. “That’s not one thing you take care of within the courts. You take care of it at residence.”

Murphy doesn’t blame Pepin for the accident, King mentioned, and Pepin has not compensated Murphy for her loss. Murphy is targeted on her daughter’s restoration, King mentioned.

“It is going to be lifelong,” King mentioned. “Mind accidents aren’t one thing you recuperate from in a few weeks.”

Teagan Butz was four when she and her father have been thrown from the Sea-Doo. King mentioned Teagan is getting the very best medical care and is doing properly. She calls her a “miracle little one.” King declined to say who paid for the care. Was it Pepin? No, she responded.

The deadline for the Butz household — or anybody —to file a declare towards Carey got here and went on Might 15. On Wednesday, U.S. Justice of the Peace Decide Anthony Porcelli signed an order of default noting the absence of a Butz declare.

The deadline for submitting a declare towards Pepin is June 18.

Butz and his household have been staying at a house on Clearwater Seashore owned by a Pepin belief on the weekend of the crash, information present.

Butz and his daughter had been out on the Sea-Doo as soon as, returned and went again out once more, based on a report.

He accelerated east, away from the seashore residence, after which collided with the left facet of the boat, as Carey traveled northwest within the channel.

The crash was investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fee.

Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

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