Man charged in boating accident that killed former Hagerstown woman

Jay H. Fowler Sr. faces one count each of reckless operation of a vessel and failure to keep a proper lookout while operating a vessel

August 11, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |

A Virginia man has been charged in connection with the July 2 boating death of a former Hagerstown woman, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission said this week.

Jay H. Fowler Sr., 72, of Colonial Beach, Va., was charged Tuesday with one count each of reckless operation of a vessel and failure to keep a proper lookout while operating a vessel, according to John M.R. Bull, a spokesman for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The accident occurred in Monroe Bay along the Potomac River.

Former Hagerstown resident Margaret Hartman, 53, was pronounced dead at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va. She was taken to the hospital after an 18-foot boat being piloted by Fowler collided with another 18-foot boat  that Hartman was riding, according to a marine police supplemental report.

Hartman's husband, Lyle Hartman, told an investigator that he slowed his boat for a wake when the vessel was struck from behind, the report said.

Chris Vougioukles, a jet-ski rider who witnessed the accident, said in the supplemental report that he saw a boat that didn't look right sitting in the water. When he got closer, he said one bass boat was sitting on top of another submerged bass boat.

Vougioukles said a man, who later was identified as Lyle Hartman, was climbing on the wreckage, the report said.

When Vougioukles asked if everything was all right, Lyle Hartman said: "No, my wife is trapped underneath the boat."

Vougioukles climbed off his jet ski, swam to the back of the wreckage and pulled the top boat off the bottom one, the report said.

"That is when we found the lady," Vougioukles said in the report. "Her husband and I started CPR."

Margaret Hartman was taken ashore, where an awaiting EMS crew took her to the hospital. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

Fowler and his passenger, Robert Robinski, told authorities that they didn't see the Hartman's boat until it was too late.

"I hit the boat," Fowler's statement to police said. "Jet skis were everywhere. No one was drinking any alcohol on my boat. Never saw (the) boat until right before I hit it."

The report said that Lyle Hartman, who had a sore shoulder and red mark on his forehead after the accident, also was taken to the hospital.

The survivor of a stroke in 1999, Fowler appeared to be upset and had a hard time breathing, according to police. He was released after his information was taken at the scene.

Bull said Fowler's arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday in Westmoreland (Va.) General District Court.

"He faces up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500 under Virginia law," Bull wrote in an email. "He's innocent until proven guilty in court. If he is determined to be guilty of the charges, the actual penalty will be at the discretion of the judge."

The daughter of Conrad and Barbara Beard, Margaret Hartman was a 1975 graduate of North Hagerstown High School. She worked in Gaithersburg, Md., before moving to West Virginia to work with a farm bureau there.

The Hartmans lived in Brandywine, W.Va.

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