Man gets two years in Summit County boating accident
Summit County, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Frisco resident Kevin Lukanski was sentenced Monday to two years in prison in the Summit County boating accident that claimed the life of friend Adam Brown last August.
In front of a packed courtroom in the Summit County Justice Center, Lukanski fought back tears and turned towards the Brown family as he recounted the events of the night of Brown’s death.
“That evening will always be a horror to me, and I admit that I made some errors, some very critical errors,” he said. “Hopefully, through this story, I can prevent someone else from making the same mistake. …I can’t apologize enough for the loss of Adam. He will never be forgotten.”
In early December, Lukanski pleaded guilty to boating under the influence and criminally negligent homicide, a lesser charge than the original count of vehicular manslaughter.
Lukanski was “doing donuts” at the helm of the rented boat on Aug. 6 when Brown fell overboard and subsequently drowned, according to witness testimony.
Lukanski’s blood-alcohol level after the incident was measured at 0.21, nearly three times the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle, including a boat.
Brown remained missing in the reservoir for nearly three days, and water-rescue teams recovered his body in 47 feet of water, thanks to the use of high-tech sonar equipment.
An autopsy showed that Brown suffered significant head injuries after hitting the boat’s propeller during the fall from the boat.
The boating-under-the-influence charge counts as Lukanski’s second alcohol-related conviction, after he was sentenced to probation in 2003 for driving while ability impaired.
“Accidents happen, and bad things happen to good people. But that doesn’t mean they should go unpunished,” said Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner during his closing statement. “This is not about retribution. It’s not about forgiveness. We are here today for justice, and based on everything involved in this incident, Mr. Lukanski should have known before he got behind the wheel of that boat that something bad was going to happen.”
Since Lukanski’s initial court appearance in September, acquaintances have written dozens of letters to the court defending his character, but Adam Brown’s parents said that the case was not about “Kevin being a nice person.”
“We have heard many people say that Kevin is a nice guy,” Greg Brown said. “Well, Adam was a nice guy, too, and he didn’t deserve to die because of the foolish actions of one person.”
Defense attorney Gary Sandblom called three witnesses who labeled Lukanski as safety-conscious and responsible.
He has been a 14-year employee of Copper Mountain Ski Resort, and last year, he was named best ski patroller in the state by trade organization Colorado Ski Country USA.
“I can tell you that Kevin is one of the best I have seen, and I trust him with my life,” said Don Riggle, a Copper Mountain ski patroller since 1981. “I think this court has the opportunity to get something good out of a bad situation by applying a very long community-service sentence and probation.”
Other supporters suggested that an appropriate course of action would be for Lukanski to educate others on boating safety and the dangerous consequences of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
“I want to offer up a boating-safety course and have Kevin come tell his story,” said Michael Russo, who operates the Lake Dillon Water Taxi. “I think he could really help others, because the boating community needs a more extensive education on boating under the influence.”
At the end of the 3-1/2 hour hearing, District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle chose prison time for Lukanski right in the middle of the sentencing range.
“This is one of the most difficult sentences I have ever had to impose,” he said.
“…There is an expectation that when crimes are committed, there are consequences.”
Lukanski was immediately taken into custody by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and he most likely will serve his time at the San Luis Valley Community Corrections Center in Alamosa.
“It is unfortunate that this happened on the day you deviated from what appears to be otherwise safe and responsible conduct,” Ruckriegle said. “Fun is fun, but when it goes deadly, there are consequences.”
Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.