MANDEL: ‘I assumed they were drunk kids,’ emotional witness says of O’Leary boat

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As he stood in shock as the O’Leary boat came speeding toward them, Murray Wohlmuth wanted to save his girlfriend sitting in the line of impact.

But there was nothing he could do.

Struggling with the memories of that tragic night on Lake Joseph, Wohlmuth was in a Parry Sound courthouse, being asked to remember his thoughts just before the fatal crash.

“I remember thinking I wanted to pull on Suzy’s leg to get her out of the way and I knew I didn’t have time for that,” he explained. “I didn’t know what to do. I frankly thought the boat was going to explode and my last thought that I recall was ‘I’ve got to jump.’”

“And then I woke up.”

The retired denturist was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion from being thrown backward. Suzana Brito, the Uxbridge mother of three he was dating, died in hospital from blunt force trauma.

Gary Poltash, 64, who was sitting beside her, died at the scene.

Linda O’Leary, wife of Shark Tank celebrity and millionaire businessman Kevin O’Leary, was driving her husband and another woman back to their lakeside mansion on Lake Joseph at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019 when she collided with the large wakeboard boat carrying 12 people out stargazing.

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She’s pleaded not guilty to careless operation under the Canada Shipping Act, with defence lawyer Brian Greenspan insisting the other boat had extinguished its lights so they could better see the sky.

If convicted, O’Leary faces no jail time. Instead, the maximum fine is $10,000.

After a dinner party at his cottage, Wohlmuth’s cousin, Dr. Irv Edwards, had invited all his guests to cruise the lake and look at the stars on his new Nautique, court heard. At some point early on, Edwards handed the helm over to his more experienced friend, Dr. Richard Ruh.

When they stopped near Emerald Island, Ruh asked him to check that their boat lights were on, Wohlmuth said.

“I actually had to push on Suzana’s head and I leaned back and I could see that on the port side of the boat, what I would call headlights — but they’re actually called docking lights — they were on. There are nine LED lights and they’re quite bright.”

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A picture of American Gary Poltash and Uxbridge mother Suzana Brito on the weekend they were both tragically killed in the Lake Joseph boating accident. (GoFundMe/Screengrab)
A picture of American Gary Poltash and Uxbridge mother Suzana Brito on the weekend they were both tragically killed in the Lake Joseph boating accident. (GoFundMe/Screengrab)

As they drifted on a calm night, Edwards was joking around and warning the others that his cousin cheats at golf. Wohlmuth laughed and stood to defend himself,then turned to go back to sit beside Brito.

He wouldn’t reach her.

“I noticed a boat off in the distance,” he testified. “It looked like it was going to come ridiculously close and of course, I was very upset. I assumed they were drunk kids.

“And then they changed direction and it looked like they were going to pass on the starboard side instead but still closer than they should be coming.”

He remembered being angry with “those stupid kids.”

“They were driving recklessly. They were coming too close to us, in daylight or nighttime, they were coming too close to us.”

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Crown attorney Samir Adam asked if he could estimate the vessel’s speed. As a waterskier, Wohlmuth said, he needs a boat to go about 30 mph.

“They were going fast enough to pull me.”

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He believed it was going to pass their Nautique.

“And then the next thing I knew, it was probably 15 feet from the boat, and it was coming right at us and I didn’t really know how to react.”

Wohlmuth awoke lying on his back in several inches of cold water on the floor of the Nautique, being tended to by two of the women.

He couldn’t remember what happened at first, he said, and when he did, he tried to get up to go to Brito.

He paused then for a long moment.

  1. Linda and Kevin O'Leary attend Haute Living and Grand Seiko Host Cover Dinner in honour of Morimoto, celebrating Miami food and wine at Le Sirenuse on Feb. 20, 2020 in Surfside, Fla.

    MANDEL: ‘They just left.’ Witness recounts O’Leary boat leaving after crash

  2. Linda and Kevin O'Leary attend Haute Living and Grand Seiko Host Cover Dinner in honour of Morimoto, celebrating Miami food and wine at Le Sirenuse on Feb. 20, 2020 in Surfside, Fla.

    MANDEL: Invisible or brightly lit? Driver denies shutting lights of boat hit by Linda O’Leary

  3. Businessman and television personality Kevin O'Leary and his wife Linda arrive at the 2014 Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar Party in West Hollywood, California March 2, 2014.

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“I didn’t know how badly she was hurt but I knew she was hurt and she didn’t know anybody there,” he finally said. “I really wanted to get up and go over to Suzy but they wouldn’t let me up.”

Brito wouldn’t regain consciousness and was taken off life support three days later.

Wohlmuth is to be cross-examined by Greenspan on Friday.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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