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County Prosecutors Release New Details in Wakeboarding Death

The operator of the boat was intoxicated, say prosecutors, but didn't cause the drowning of a wakeboarder last August, who broke his neck attempting a backflip.

The King County Prosecutor's Office released additional details in the case of a local wakeboarder killed last summer in Lake Washington after declining to prosecute the boat operator for vehicular homicide.

Islander Nate Bahner, 33, drowned on Aug. 10, and police arrested the boat operator on suspicion of boating under the influence. Senior deputy prosecutor Amy Freedheim said she believed the boat operator was intoxicated while towing Bahner, but "does not appear to have had any bearing on the death."

No felony charges will be filed in the case, and Mercer Island Patch does not name individuals in criminal matters unless they are charged with a crime.

Freedheim said she believed the cause of Bahner's death was related to breaking his neck. He was attempting a backflip on a wakeboard and became entangled in the tow cable, according to the prosecutor. She said that Bahner's wife, three children and a babysitter were passengers in the boat, and made a video of most of his attempts, except for the final, fateful backflip. He was pulled from the water where he was found face-down and unconscious, but later drowned, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.

Prosecutors also believe the boat operator was drunk at the time of the accident and was arrested after refusing to submit voluntarily to a breathalyzer test. Seattle Police later obtained a blood sample before he was released, which indicated alcohol was in his bloodstream, .036, 4 1/2 hours after the accident. Adjusting for time that had elapsed, Freedheim said she thought the boat operator would have been above the legal limit.

Prosecutors also said the boat operator has a prior arrest on suspicion of BUI in 2001 and was cited by for alcohol possession as a minor.

The case was returned by Freedheim to the Seattle Police for possible refiling in municipal court.

Additional Coverage on Mercer Island Patch:

  • No Felony Charges in Wakeboarding Death Near Mercer Island
  • Medical Examiner Rules Wakeboarding Death on Lake Washington an Accidental Drowning
  • Website Remembers Mercer Island's Nate Bahner
  • UPDATE: Mercer Island Man Killed in Wakeboarding Accident

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