Originally Posted Online: Dec. 05, 2012, 6:15 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 05, 2012, 11:33 pm

Fog, shallow water cited in river deaths

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By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com

The October deaths of two men thrown from a boat on the Mississippi River were ruled by a coroner's jury to be accidental.

David P. Slater, 50, of Davenport, and Thomas O. Trainer, 42, of Canton, died Oct. 20 after their boat struck a channel marker near Fairport, Iowa, according to testimony at a Rock Island County Coroner's inquest Wednesday.

Mr. Slater was drowned. Mr. Trainer suffered fatal blunt trauma injuries and is believed to have hit the marker when he was ejected from the boat.

Illinois Conservation Police Officer Tony Petreikis testified that a number of factors may have contributed to the collision -- fog, low morning light, shallow water due to drought conditions and two of the boat's seven occupants in the front of the craft, obstructing the operator's view.

The group entered the water at the Shady Creek boat launch near Fairport and was on its way to hunt from duck blinds on the Illinois side of the river when the crash occurred, according to testimony. The crash happened on the Illinois side of the river, although rescue, recovery and investigation efforts were based on the Iowa side.

Alcohol and other impairing substances are not suspected at this point, Officer Petreikis said, although blood samples from the operator are still being analyzed.Neither Mr. Slater nor Mr. Trainer had signs of alcohol or drugs in their systems, Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson told the jury.

The boat's operator told investigators he was leaning out of the boat and using a spot light to help navigate while struggling with a motor that was not operating properly because of the shallow water, Officer Petreikis said. To keep the boat's propeller out of the mud, the operator also was using a different route than he might have if the water was deeper.

Officer Petreikis said the boat may have been going 15-20 mph when it struck the channel marker comprised of concrete, telephone poles and other materials.

The boat was not overloaded and there were life jackets in the boat, Officer Petreikis said. Because passengers had differing accounts of who was sitting where in the boat, investigators could not determine the seating arrangement when the collision occurred.

Officer Petreikis said the case was still under investigation and he soon plans to submit reports to the Rock Island County State's Attorney's Office, which will determine if any charges are filed.

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