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Saturday, February 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Medical Examiner testifying in Dennis Magner’s trial said victims of boat crash sustained life-threatening injuries before drowning

UPDATED: Sat., July 28, 2018, 4:36 p.m.

Lake Coeur d’Alene. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Lake Coeur d’Alene. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

COEUR D’ALENE – A medical examiner testifying in the trial of Dennis Magner, the man charged with involuntary manslaughter for his involvement in a boat crash that left three dead in 2016, told a jury Friday that the victims were so seriously injured that they would have died even if they hadn’t fallen into Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Speaking before a jury of 10 women and four men, Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken said the three victims, who were in a stationary boat when a vessel operated by Magner crashed into them, all suffered serious injuries to internal organs. Besides organ damage and fractures to her ribcage, Caitlin A. Breeze, who was 21, sustained an incapacitating spinal cord injury.

“She would have not survived this, even if she hadn’t been in the water,” Aiken said.

The other two victims, Justin Honken, 21, and Justin Luhr, 34, sustained head injuries and likely were not conscious when they fell into the water, Aiken said. Both sustained life-threatening organ damage and Honken, who had glass shards on his body, may have had contact with a window shield, Aiken said.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh also questioned the police officer who first arrived after the boat crash.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Traw testified that after he arrived at the scene, he saw three boats – the victims’ boat, Magner’s vessel and another boat operated by witnesses. Traw said he smelled alcohol wafting from the boat and when he arrived, Jonathan Sweat was in the driver’s seat and Magner was in a passenger seat. He noticed Magner had a head injury, smelled of alcohol and had glassy, red eyes. Sweat, who initially told him he was driving the boat, did not smell strongly of alcohol, Traw said.

According to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office news release, Sweat and the other passengers on the boat later recanted their statements about who was driving. Sweat faces criminal conspiracy charges.

In addition to the trial, which will resume on Monday, Magner faces wrongful death lawsuits from the victims’ families.

Editor’s note: This story was altered on Saturday, July 28 to correct an error in Magner’s charges. Magner is standing trial for involuntary manslaughter; an earlier charge of criminal conspiracy was dropped.

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