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Wrongful death lawsuit filed against suspect in Lake Coeur d’Alene boat crash

UPDATED: Wed., May 3, 2017

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

The family of Justin Luhr has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Spokane Superior Court against Dennis Magner, the man suspected of driving a boat that crashed into Luhr’s boat on Lake Coeur d’Alene last summer, killing him and his two passengers.

Lawyers for Luhr’s wife, Kalyn Luhr, allege Magner is at fault for the July 30 crash, saying he was operating his boat at a speed “great enough to put the boat up on a plane and maintain a wake” before crashing into Luhr’s 1989 Formula 223LS, which was anchored and had a light turned on.

The crash, which happened between 8:30 p.m. and midnight, sent Magner’s Mastercraft vessel airborne over the top of Luhr’s boat, tearing off the top of the cabin and completely removing the dash and cockpit, the lawsuit alleges.

Luhr and his two passengers, Justin Honken and Caitlin Breeze, sustained injuries to their heads and went overboard, where they drowned. Their bodies were recovered days later.

In February, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office recommended criminal charges against Magner, saying he and three of his passengers initially lied about who had been operating the boat. The passengers later recanted and Magner admitted to being in control of the boat.

But criminal charges have not yet been filed, according to Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh. After receiving the report from the sheriff’s office, McHugh said, he requested investigative work that is still ongoing.

“Once that’s completed, we’ll be able to make a decision,” he said.

Still, Kalyn Luhr’s attorney, William Gilbert, said now that the suit is filed, they’ll be able to find out more information during deposition that may shed light on what happened that night.

He said they’ll be seeking significant damages, which would benefit Luhr’s wife and two young daughters.

“Kalyn is struggling,” he said. “She’s doing as good as can be expected. She’s got a ton of try.”

The Luhr family is also tied up in a criminal case involving Katie Rafter, a Cheney businesswoman suspected of stealing money from a memorial fund set up to aid the Luhr and Honken families. She allegedly siphoned more than $14,000 from the fund and used the money to buy a tanning business in Cheney called Wildflower Boutique and Salon.

Some of the money has been repaid, but not all, Gilbert said.

The families of Honken and Breeze have not filed lawsuits of their own. If they do, Gilbert said all three likely would go to trial at once.

“But for my purposes, I don’t care what everybody else is doing,” he said. “I have a wife and two little girls to take care of and two distraught parents.”

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