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Woman gets home detention in Lake Gage boating accident

August 3, 2018

A Fort Wayne woman accused of recklessly driving a motor boat that tipped on Lake Gage last summer, throwing all 10 passengers and seriously injuring four, was sentenced today to 6 months on home detention.

Dominique Effinger, 21, pleaded guilty July 2 to felony criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon as part of a plea agreement. The criminal recklessness charge carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/2 years in prison.

Steuben County Superior Court Judge William Fee sentenced Effinger to 1 1/2 years, with one year suspended and six months on home detention. Her lawyer, Michelle Kraus, asked that Effinger be allowed to serve home detention in Monroe County so she could continue her college education at Indiana University.

Effinger 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. Those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

The case drew national attention after a video was quickly posted on social media that showed the boat Effinger was driving circling the lake unmanned for more than an hour.

After Effinger, then 20, and her passengers were thrown or jumped overboard around 7 p.m. July 15, the boat circled Lake Gage before conservation officer Jake Carlile was able to disable it with a rope and hop on board to shut it off.

A preliminary breath test on Effinger showed an alcohol level of .122 percent, court documents said. The legal limit is .08 percent. At 10:09 p.m., Effinger’s alcohol level registered at .098, according to the DNR’s final report issued  Aug. 29 last year.

Details emerged of chaos in the water after the boat violently tipped as other boaters and those who watched from the shore rushed to help the injured.

Two women on board Effinger’s boat had to be airlifted to trauma centers because of their life-threatening injuries.

The accident followed an afternoon of drinking at at least two lake houses, including one that belonged to Effinger’s parents, Don and Lisa Effinger, the DNR report states. Eight of the 10 boat occupants were underage, including Effinger.

The boat, a 21-foot 2007 Correct Craft Sport SV 211 L, sank to the bottom of the lake due to “the multiple collision that it had been involved in,” after it was tied to a dock, the DNR report said. The Lake Gage Marina “had to use multiple personnel as well as a generator and several pumps to get the boat back to the surface.” 

jduffy@jg.net

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