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Tuesday, July 03, 2018 1:00 am

Guilty plea in Steuben boating accident

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne woman who caused a boating accident in Steuben County last year that injured several people – at least two badly – pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, a felony.

Dominique M. Effinger, 21, faced a list of other charges including two felony counts of operating a motor boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher resulting in serious injury.

A plea agreement filed in Steuben Superior Court last week calls for a 1 -year executed sentence, but a judge will decide what portions of that time will be spent behind bars or on probation.

The criminal recklessness charge carries a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison.

Steuben County Prosecutor Jeremy Musser said Monday the single charge to which Effinger pleaded guilty is equivalent to the other charges, which included misdemeanors. Pleas to those likely would have led to sentences served together, meaning the executed time would be roughly the same, he said.

A call to Effinger's attorney, Michelle Kraus of Fort Wayne, was not returned.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 3.

The accident happened July 15, 2017, as the 21-foot motorboat Effinger was driving went out of control. Ten people – all had been drinking, according to court documents – were thrown from the boat.

One passenger told investigators he'd had as many as 14 beers before boarding the 2007 Correct Craft Sport SV 211 Ltd.

Witnesses said the boat appeared to be traveling 20 to 25 mph when the accident occurred. No one was wearing a life vest, according to court documents.

A woman injured in the accident had her arm “ripped open and it appeared her hand was barely hanging on,” according to court documents. Another woman suffered skull fractures and other broken bones, police said.

A probable cause affidavit filed in July said at least two people on the boat refused to cooperate with investigators. A man who admitted drinking before boarding said he was told by others not to talk to an Indiana Conservation officer who led the investigation.

Effinger was the only person charged in the wreck.

mleblanc@jg.net