Local News

Man charged in fatal boat collision on Roxboro lake

Posted June 1, 2010 9:47 a.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2010 6:44 p.m. EDT

— Authorities have charged a 33-year-old man in a boat collision that killed a woman Sunday evening on the Mayo Reservoir in Roxboro.

Robert Franklin Gentry drove a ski boat into the back of a pontoon boat, killing the pontoon owner's wife, Tammy Duke, according to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission officials.

The ski boat went through the pontoon and struck Duke and knocked her into the water just before 10 p.m.

Duke was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital. Investigators said they don't know if she died from the impact or from drowning. Her body was sent to the medical examiner's office.

"She was a caring person. She loved life," family friend Billy Lea said Tuesday. "I know I loved her, and everybody else did."

Gentry left the scene and turned himself in to authorities about four hours later, according to Sgt. Bill Taylor of the Wildlife Resources Commission. He submitted to an alcohol test, but authorities would not reveal the results.

He was charged with boating while impaired, careless and reckless boat operation resulting in the death of a person and failure to render assistance and submit identification at a boat accident. Wildlife officers continue to investigate the case.

Gentry posted $25,000 bond Monday. His next court date is July 27.

A man who was on Gentry's boat disputed the four-hour delay in Gentry's surrender, saying Tuesday that Gentry contacted authorities upon returning to shore, which was about an hour after the collision.

The man, who declined to provide his name, said Gentry's boat had a hole in it, and he was trying to get to shore as fast as possible to avoid sinking. The pontoon boat didn't have any lights on, so Gentry didn't see it, the man said.

Eric Justason, who lives nearby, said Monday that the pontoon boat was illuminated. After hearing the collision, he and a friend joined in the search for Duke.

"It didn't take us long," Justason said. "Maybe another 30 seconds of searching (and) we found (the boat owner's) wife in the water."

Lea said Duke was active in Moose Lodge in Roxboro, especially its activities for families and children.

"It's difficult. It's a shock. She will be missed, very much so missed," he said.

Acting Person County District Attorney Jim Long said he will wait for the wildlife officers to file their written report before deciding on whether to pursue additional charges against Gentry.