Boat builder a suspect in accidental 2009 Lake Stevens death

LAKE STEVENS — A Western Washington boat maker is the target of a criminal investigation into the drowning death of a Lake Stevens woman in July 2009.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives are asking prosecutors to file second-degree manslaughter charges against the owner of a boat manufacturing company. They believe the man, 67, knowingly sold a ski boat made with unsafe materials.

A person can be found guilty of second-degree manslaughter when they cause a person’s death as a result of criminal negligence.

That boat capsized on Lake Stevens on July 11, 2009. Killed was Cindy Tate, 48, a beloved businesswoman who was active in the community.

Officials believe a wave swamped the bow of the nearly 21-foot vessel, flooding it. Tate likely was trapped under the boat as it sank.

Detectives have since determined that the boat allegedly was built with a cheaper kind of foam that isn’t approved for marine use, according to court papers.

A company employee reportedly told investigators that he’d warned the owner that using the cheaper foam was dangerous “and could get someone killed,” according to police reports.

The foam became saturated during the Lake Stevens capsizing, court papers show. The boat sank in two minutes. Investigators believe Tate might have survived if she hadn’t been dragged down.

“If the right type of foam had been used, the boat may not have sunk,” sheriff’s bureau chief Kevin Prentiss said.

Detectives plan to meet with prosecutors later this month to discuss the case. They want to sort out who should be held responsible, and what charges may be appropriate.

The detectives have talked to the company owner, and he is aware of the investigation’s findings, Prentiss said.

More than 2½ years have passed since the fatal capsizing.

The investigation took time because of the complex issues at play and because a detective had to travel to the company’s headquarters out-of-state, Prentiss said.

The company owner didn’t return voice mails or electronic requests for an interview on Thursday. The Herald typically doesn’t name suspects until they are formally charged or make a court appearance.

Records show the man, who lives in south King County, served time in state prison in the 1990s for check fraud.

The man also is listed as an owner in multiple other businesses in Washington, including a marine services company with addresses in Kent and La Conner.

That company has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Two consumer complaints were filed against the company in the past three years, she said. The company never responded to BBB inquiries about the complaints.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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