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Chico man pleads guilty, 2018 Lake Oroville boating crash

A former Chico resident plead guilty in Butte County Superior Court on Thursday to charges involving a boating case on Lake Oroville that left one person dead and several others injured, Butte County District Attorney, Mike Ramsey said.

Posted: Jan 30, 2020 5:18 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. – A former Chico resident plead guilty in Butte County Superior Court on Thursday to charges involving a boating case on Lake Oroville that left one person dead and several others injured, Butte County District Attorney, Mike Ramsey said.

31-year-old Brandon Michael Smith was driving a speed boat filled with five passengers on the North Fork of Lake Oroville on May 13, 2018.

RELATED: 5 rescued at Lake Oroville from boat crash; at least 1 dead

The boat collided with the shoreline, and ejected 27-year-old Walter Drew Gerken, of Paradise, from the boat, which ended up killing him.

A 19-year-old woman was also ejected from the boat and suffered major injuries to her left leg. The other passengers sustained minor injuries, Ramsey said.

State Parks Rangers investigated the scene and determined Smith was intoxicated at the time of the collision. They said he was also driving too close to the shoreline without an adequate lookout positioned on the boat.

Smith plead guilty to charges of Vehicular Manslaughter in the Operation of a Vessel While Intoxicated and Operation of a Vessel While Under the Influence causing Great Bodily Injury.

He is facing seven years and eight months of state prison.

Sentencing has been set in the case for April 2. Smith remains out of custody pending sentencing in this matter, Ramsey said.

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