No charge for fatal ski boat accident

LAKE STEVENS — Prosecutors won’t file charges against a teenager involved in a ski boat accident that killed a rower last August on Lake Stevens.

The boy, who was 17 at the time, failed to maintain a proper lookout when his boat hit a two-person racing shell, investigators concluded


Prosecutors said they found no proof that the teen acted recklessly. There also was no evidence the teen was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The teen was operating a 19-foot boat and pulling a water skier behind him when he collided with the two-person shell around 7:40 p.m. Aug. 19. The accident occurred during an evening practice in an area of the lake being used by master rowers from the Lake Stevens Rowing Club.

David Balbirona, 41, a father of four from Lake Stevens, suffered a head injury that likely knocked him unconscious. Balbirona went into the water and didn’t come to the surface. Divers found his body the next afternoon.

“The defendant should have maintained a better lookout, but that is negligence and does not fit within the criminal conduct proscribed by statue,” deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler wrote. “Therefore, we are declining to file criminal charges in this very sad case.”

A Lake Stevens police report reviewed by prosecutors concluded the rowing shell pulled in front of the ski boat. The teen had scanned the area for other vessels, thought it clear, then turned to the skier as he throttled up.

“The operators of the rowing shell incurred some culpability when they crossed into the danger zone of the ski boat,” the report said. “The operator of the ski boat also incurred some culpability when he did not maintain a proper lookout for all vessels or hazards prior to throttling up.”

Rick Merrill, an attorney who represented the teen, said prosecutors made “an appropriate decision” in not filing criminal charges.

“It was an accident,” he said. “There wasn’t any criminal liability on anyone’s part.”

Tony Scoringe, a spokesman for the rowing club, said the accident was difficult on everyone.

“It was a most unfortunate and tragic accident, both for Dave and his family,” Scoringe said. “We have a wife without a husband and children without a father. We have lost a very dear friend and rowing companion. Our thoughts also go out to the youth and the friends out with him that day. It is a tragedy they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.”

The accident occurred near the lake’s north cove, a few hundred yards from E. Lakeshore Drive. It was just outside the no-wake zone that stretches 875 yards out from shore.

The teen told investigators he scanned the water and saw several crew boats, but did not see the shell that he hit. He said he was facing north and the sun was low in the sky.

The other rower in the shell told investigators that Balbirona, just before impact, looked back over his left shoulder and said, “They are going to hit us.”

A coach in a separate boat that followed the rowers said she yelled at the ski boat driver but it was too late. Neither she nor the other rower could find any sign of their missing teammate after the collision.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446,

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