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Prosecutors say boater was drunk when passenger was killed in lake accident

Union Leader Correspondent

December 16. 2013 7:56PM
Eric Cable, 34, of Hooksett, is facing two counts of negligent homicide in a trial in Rockingham County Superior Court. (FILE)

BRENTWOOD - Eric Cable spent an afternoon July 2012 drinking beer with friends before recklessly piloting his boat on Northwood Lake, causing a passenger to fall overboard and die after being hit by the boat's drive and propeller, a prosecutor argued on Monday.

Jurors were also told during opening arguments in Cable's trial in Rockingham County Superior Court that on the afternoon of July 14, 2012, he was operating his 18-foot Crestliner boat without a license and had no boater safety training.

Cable, 34, of Hooksett, faces two counts of negligent homicide for allegedly causing the death of his friend, Brendan Yerry, 28, of Hudson.

Before the start of Monday's trial, the jury looked over Cable's boat under the guidance of Judge Marguerite Wageling, a prosecutor and defense lawyers.

Prosecutors argued during opening statements that Cable had spent hours drinking with friends at a camp and then used his boat to bring friends to a sand bar on the eastern part of the lake hours before Yerry fell from the boat.

A group of people from three boats met at the sand bar and played a drinking game called "Polish Horseshoes," according to Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard.

Marine Patrol investigators later seized a bag from Cable's boat with 89 beer cans inside, Blanchard said.

Yerry fell into the water around 7:45 p.m. while Cable was executing a turn to pick up friends at a nearby boat dock.

A state expert is expected to testify that Cable was intoxicated based on calculations made from tests that registered his blood-alcohol results at .04 and .03 about six hours after the incident.

Blanchard told jurors they will have to rely on the testimony from that expert, other boat passengers and Marine Patrol investigators to determine whether Cable was intoxicated at the time.

"There aren't any independent eyewitnesses to this event," Blanchard said.

Cable is also charged with an alternative theory of negligent homicide, which alleges he recklessly piloted the boat by allowing Yerry to ride on the gunwales, or in the front of the boat.

Marine Patrol Sgt. Joshua Dirth testified on Monday that when he had Cable in his patrol car, the odor was so pungent he had to roll his window down.

"There was no question in my mind that he was impaired," Dirth testified, after mistakenly saying Cable wasn't impaired.

Defense lawyer Peter Anderson said that prosecutors lack evidence that Cable was intoxicated that day.

He said that witness testimony will show that his client was not speeding or driving the boat erratically when Yerry fell from the boat.

"What happened is unfortunate and sad, but it's not a crime, and he's not guilty," Anderson said.

Anderson noted that the bag used to store the 89 beer cans did not come from just drinkers on Cable's boat, but from two other boats as well.

"A total of 16 people shared that garbage bag," Anderson said.

Anderson asked jurors to carefully scrutinize the state's witnesses, and suggested to jurors that the prosecution lacked any conclusive evidence to prove that Cable was intoxicated.

He suggested that jurors will not be getting an unbiased opinion from the state's expert who will be called to testify about Cable's blood-alcohol level.

"It will be one-sided," Anderson said. "She only testifies for the state."

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