Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Boater on trial for 3 deaths

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Kentucky water patrol Officer Doug Bryant spent nearly two hours on the witness stand Monday in the opening day of the trial of Brian Brunen, who is charged with manslaughter in the deaths of three people in a boating accident in 1999.

        Authorities charged that Mr. Brunen, 32, of Hyde Park was in control of a 20-foot pleasure boat on Aug. 16 when it struck a boat operated by Scott Martini on the Ohio River near the Watertown Marina in Dayton.

        Mr. Martini, his wife, Pam, both of Dearborn County, Ind., and a passenger, Ken Middendorf of Cleves, were thrown from the boat and drowned.

        Mr. Middendorf's wife, Kim, was injured but survived, as did Mr. Brunen and a passenger in his boat, Nicole Purvis.

        Defense attorney Patrick Hanley grilled Officer Bryant on a report from University Hospital in Cincinnati regarding Mr. Brunen's blood-alcohol level several hours after the accident. Mr. Brunen also was charged with operating a motorboat under the influence.

        Mr. Hanley asked Officer Bryant whether he could be certain about the numbers on the hospital report concerning Mr. Brunen's blood-alcohol level (.111), and the time listed on the report.

        “You testified at the pre liminary hearing that the blood was drawn at 4:40 a.m., when in fact the lab findings were recorded at that time,” Mr. Hanley said.

        Officer Bryant agreed that he was mistaken about what the time meant on the report and later amended it.

        Officer Bryant said his investigation led him to the conclusion that Mr. Brunen's boat struck the rear of the boat operated by Mr. Martini, did a 360-degree turn and struck the boat again, causing it to capsize.

        Officer Bryant also testified that he found 37 beer cans and beer bottles, 30 of them empty, in Mr. Brunen's boat, but under cross examination he admitted there was no way to tell when the contents of the empties had been consumed.

        State medical examiner Dr. Charles Stephens testified that all three victims died from drowning. He said the autopsies he conducted showed that Mr. Middendorf had cuts and puncture wounds and fractured ribs, and Mr. Martini had a fractured skull.

        Mr. Hanley pointed out that the toxicology reports accompanying the autopsy reports indicated that Mr. Martini's blood-alcohol level was .07 and showed traces of codeine, and his urine contained traces of cocaine metabolite (metabolized cocaine).

        The jury trial resumes before Campbell Circuit Court Judge Leonard Kopowski at 9 a.m. today.


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