Sunday, August 10, 2003

Free haircuts help preserve memory
of boat-crash victims



By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Gregg Martini examines the hair of Allison Craig, 10, of Covedale before she gets it cut for free Saturday in Price Hill.
Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN

Four years ago this week, Scott Martini and his wife, Pamela Barnes Martini, were killed in a boating accident on the Ohio River after leaving a rock concert at Riverbend.

Scott Martini's family honored his memory Saturday by holding what it hopes will be the first of many Scott Martini Memorial Haircuts for Kids. The event was held in conjunction with the fifth annual Price Hill Back to School Fair for about 800 children at Seton High School in Price Hill.

"Scott loved life," said his father, Ben Martini, 70, of Green Township. "He would not have wanted us to sit around and grieve."

The Martinis wanted to commemorate Scott's legacy.

Free haircuts for kids - 104, to be exact - were a natural fit.

Scott, 36, and Pamela, 32, his wife of six years, worked together as the second-generation owners of Mr. Martini's Hair Designers on Glenway Avenue in Price Hill.

Scott cut hair; Pamela was a nail technician.

"Scott loved kids," said his brother, Gregg, 38, of Oakley. "He was great with kids who came into the shop.''

Mr. Martini's Hair Designers thrived alongside other family-owned businesses, where customers were friends and greeted by first names.

But after the couple's death, his father, Ben Martini, couldn't bear to go to work. He sold the business, which has since re-opened under a different name.

Pamela Barnes Martini left behind a daughter, Amanda Gresser, who is now living with her father in Cleves. The 18-year-old is "doing great" and plans to attend Northern Kentucky University this fall, Gregg Martini said.

Amid the generous spirit of Saturday's event, however, a cloud looms.

The family hasn't forgiven the system that issued a $250 punishment for the man operating the boat that collided with the one Scott and Pamela were in.

Brian Brunen of Hyde Park was acquitted on three second-degree murder counts. He was convicted of a misdemeanor count and paid a $250 fine - the maximum for operating a boat while intoxicated.

At the 2000 Campbell Circuit Court trial, testimony conflicted as to what caused the two-boat accident about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 16, 1999, near Dayton, Ky.

Killed along with the Martinis was a friend in the boat with them, Ken Middenford of Cleves. His wife, Kim Middenford, survived the collision.

The prosecutor relied on testimony from an investigator who said both boats were traveling about 35 mph when Brunen's Thunderbird Formula speedboat struck the Middendorfs' Stingray Rally Sport speedboat from behind, did a 360-degree turn and struck it again in the side.

The defense countered with testimony from John Deck, an expert in naval architecture and boating accident reconstruction. Deck said there was no way to determine what caused the wreck.

"What it came down to was no one could form a concrete decision on what happened. On land, you can judge skid marks - but there are no skid marks on water," Gregg Martini said.

After the accident, Pamela's father, Jim Barnes, pushed for stronger laws regarding boat safety, training and alcohol. But he didn't get very far.

"It was like going against a stone wall. Very little has changed," said Barnes, 63, of North College Hill. "The lobbyists for the boat manufacturers want to keep rules the way they are. They don't want too many rules and regulations because it cuts into their industry."

Gregg Martini would like to see regulations in Ohio and Kentucky for more and better education on the dangers of speeding in boats. Most of all, he wonders why it's mostly legal in Ohio to have open alcoholic beverages in boats. It is illegal, however, to have open containers on boats in Ohio state parks.

In Kentucky, it's illegal to have open alcoholic beverages in boats.

In both states, it is illegal to operate boats under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"The laws are way too lax on alcohol and boating, and it's just a dangerous scene at night - whether you are drinking or not," Gregg Martini said.

"If you treated it like a car, where no open containers are allowed, things would be a lot better. It's common sense.''

Last year, a law took effect on Kentucky waterways, including the Ohio River, increasing fines for drunken boating by $100. It also requires drunken boaters to take a water safety course for an additional $100.

Stricter regulations are not planned in Kentucky, but that doesn't mean the public can't change that, said state Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, Ky.

In 1996, he backed legislation to make it illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com

Memorial contributions welcome

Monetary contributions in Scott Martini's name can be sent to The Price Hill Back to School Fair, c/o The Women's Connection, 4042 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati 45202. Proceeds benefit the Price Hill Back to School Fund.

The Martini family is forming a nonprofit foundation in honor of Scott Martini, who was killed in 1999 along with his wife, Pamela, in a boating accident. The foundation would raise money for an annual scholarship in Scott Martini's name that would be awarded to a student planning to attend cosmetology school.

Anyone interested in helping should contact his sister, Maria Deneau, (513) 797-1382.

Drunken-boating fines, penalties

Kentucky

Offense - Old Minimum - New Minimum - Maximum

First - $100 - $200 - $250

Second - $250 - $250 - $500

Third - $500 - $600 - $1,000

In addition, a safe-boating course costing $100 will be required for those found in violation.

Ohio

Those convicted face maximum penalties of $1,000 and six months in jail.

Indiana

Those operating a boat while intoxicated could face a misdemeanor charge, which often includes fines. Repeat offenders could be charged with a felony and sentenced to jail time. In addition, those found in violation could lose the right to operate a boat for one year. Penalties are on par with those issued for drunken drivers on the road.




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