LOCK HAVEN - Four months after two boats collided on the Susquehanna River, killing a young girl and injuring several others, one of the boat operators has been arrested on with multiple criminal charges, and charges are pending against one of his passengers.
John Edward Englert II, 51, of 335 N. Water St., Mill Hall, was arraigned before Friday afternoon before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Sanders on 37 criminal offenses, ranging from homicide by watercraft while driving under the influence and other first-degree felonies to various summary offenses under Pennsylvania's boating laws.
Sanders set bail at $750,000 and Englert was immediately placed in the Clinton County Corrrectional Facility. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning in Central Court at the Clinton County Courthouse.
District Attorney Mike Salisbury asked for bail to be set high, saying Englert's criminal history with numerous DUI offenses places him at risk to the public and himself. Court papers indicate Englert had a blood-alcohol content of .22 percent when his Taylor LP motorboat and another boat operated by George Garlick of Lock Haven collided on the river on the evening of July 10.
A passenger in Garlick's boat, 12-year-old Valerie Heidt, a Bellefonte Middle School student from Hublersburg, was killed instantly in the crash.
Salisbury read Englert's criminal history, which included a number of DUI and drug cases in three different states, dating back to 1979. That year, the DA said, Englert was arrested for contributing toward the delinquency of minors in North Carolina. His DUI cases were in 1985, 1995, 1997 and 2005. Further, Salisbury said Englert was charged for possession of drugs in Pennsylvania in 1994, and also in South Carolina.
"I've had a few (DUIs)," Englert testified, adding he was charged with DUI in Virginia about 30 years ago.
Most disturbing, Salisbury said, is that Englert was recently charged with driving under the influence ... on Oct. 30 in Lamar Township. Further, the DA said, Englert had a BAC of .05 percent when he was apprehended by officials in his vehicle at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
"What causes the Commonwealth extreme concern was he knew he was involved in this investigation and had a new charge of DUI," Salisbury said. "What also causes the Commonwealth extreme concern is he was found to have alcohol in his system when he was apprehended today. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and he was drinking in the middle of the day."
When asked by Sanders whether he had a problem with drugs or alcohol, Englert said, "No," and described his character reputation as "normal."
Salisbury took issue with Englert's assertation.
"The Commonwealth takes issue that he does not have an addiction to alcohol or drugs," he said. "Clearly, to the Commonwealth his criminal history would say otherwise.
"He is a danger to the citizens of Clinton County," Salisbury said, asking Sanders to take that into consideration when setting bail. And if Englert is released on bail, Salisbury asked that numerous restrictions be placed on Englert.
After setting bail at $750,000, Sanders followed Salisbury's recommendation and placed a number of restrictions on Englert if he posts bail.
The restrictions include:
n His house would be searched by the county Probation Department and Sheriff's Office and all alcoholic beverages and non-prescription medications would be removed.
n He would be prohibited from possessing any alcohol or non-prescription medications.
n He would be prohibited from entering any licensed liquor establishment.
n He would be under house arrest, prohibited from going any place except for his job at First Quality in McElhattan, or medical or attorney appointments.
n He would be monitored on a daily basis, or for a time period dictated by the county Adult Probation Department.
Further, if Englert posts bail, Sanders ordered Englert could not have any contact with Garlick of Lock Haven, William Gairloch of Bellefonte, Beth Piper of Lock Haven, Matthew Nixdorf of Bellefonte and Andi Heidt and family of Hublersburg.
Englert, dressed in blue jeans and a blue flannel long-sleeve shirt and wearing a headband, declined to comment to the media as he was led by officials from the Pennsyvania State Fish and Boat Commission into the judge's chambers.
During the proceedings, he was handcuffed and secured by a belt to the seat, with Waterways Conservation Officer Thomas Nunamacher, who led the investigation into the crash, seated beside him.
On several occasions, Englert said he already had an attorney - Paul Ryan - and asked if his attorney could be present. Sanders responded that he could not have his attorney present at this arraignment but he could have his attorney present at subsequent hearings.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Central Court.
One of Englert's passengers, Barbara Jean Hummer, 41, of 416 S. Highland St., Lock Haven, is also facing five criminal counts, including conspiracy, false reports and drug possession, for the deadly collision. Hummer and Englert originally told officials that Hummer was the operator of the boat at the time of the accident, court documents state.
Salisbury said Hummer could not be located Friday and will be arraigned at a future date.
He said the arrest Friday afternoon was "the result of an extensive investigation into the accident, including the interviewing of numerous witnesses, the gathering of physical evidence and reconstruction of the accident by a boat crash reconstruction expert."
Salisbury declined to comment further on the case as he left the courtroom and walked with family members, including Valerie's mother, who sat in the back row during the proceeding.
Englert is charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault by watercraft while operating under the influence, involuntary manslaughter, homicide by watercraft while operating under the influence, homicide by watercraft, simple assault, recklessly endangering, criminal conspiracy, false reports to law enforcement authorities, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, reckless and negligent operation of a watercraft, and operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.