Watercraft accident confirmed
Investigators say two men found dead Thursday just south of Nevada Beach were killed in a watercraft accident.
The case was initially reported as a double homicide by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
The two men died after a nighttime accident on a personal watercraft stolen from Lakeside Marina, Sheriff Ron Pierini said. The driver died instantly and his passenger suffered fatal injuries after striking a pier at the Nevada 4-H Camp.
The driver was identified Friday as Gregory Westbrook, 21, a Michigan man reportedly living in South Lake Tahoe for the summer. The second victim was Charles Allan Williams, 24, of South Lake Tahoe.
Both victims died of severe blunt force trauma to the head.
Authorities did not immediately establish the deaths as accidental because the personal watercraft was nowhere in sight. It was found Thursday morning about two miles away from the 4-H Camp near Zephyr Cove.
“These two subjects apparently took a Jet Ski from the Lakeside Marina and in the middle of the night. It was extremely dark,” Pierini said Friday at a press conference. “There was no moonlight, there was no artificial light whatsoever. They were traveling at a good rate of speed and they ran into the dock behind us.”
The victims were about 20 feet from shore when they impacted the dock traveling an estimated 10 to 15 mph. There is a 4-foot-tall clearance between the surface of the water and the bottom of the wooden dock.
The accident occurred at the Nevada 4-H Camp, which is owned by the University of Nevada at Reno. No campers were present when the victims were discovered about noon Thursday.
Investigators believe Westbrook died instantly, but Williams remained alive for up to 12 hours before collapsing near a picnic table about noon. Hair, skin and a tooth mark were found on the pier where the men hit, Pierini said.
“It is kind of unique with the amount of people in Stateline that no one came across him,” Pierini said. “We don’t have any idea if he (Williams) was coherent” after the accident
Although Westbrook’s body was found about 20 feet offshore, Williams was able to get out of the water after the impact. Blood trails indicate that he may have wandered out on the dock after the accident, possibly in an attempt to locate Westbrook.
A camp counselor for the 4-H camp saw Williams collapse and hit his head on the picnic table. The counselor called 911, but emergency crews could not revive him and he died at 12:21 p.m.
While toxicology results are pending, Pierini said it was likely alcohol was a factor.
“It would be fair to say by the odor that there was alcohol involved,” he said.
Pierini said the severity of the head injuries, along with a subsequent high-speed car chase that began in South Lake Tahoe, pointed to a possible double homicide.
“It really seemed like there was a logical connection” between the discovery of the bodies and the car chase, he said.
But by Thursday evening – after the car chase ended and investigators had examined the stolen watercraft – evidence pointed to an accident instead.
Authorities didn’t release that information, however, so some local media reported the deaths as homicides based on initial sheriff’s reports. They also printed and broadcast the description of a man wanted for questioning by investigators.
Pierini said he had to await Friday’s autopsy results to rule out foul play.
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