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Two more Pineview boaters on trial in swimmer’s death

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Courtesy photo Esther Fujimoto

By jessica miller

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 11 2013 09:09AM
Updated May 21, 2013 11:32PM

Ogden • The evening of Aug. 21, 2011, Vaughn Anderson was sitting on his porch in Huntsville when he heard several blood-curdling screams.

He never saw a boat hit Esther Fujimoto, but he could tell by her screams, something was wrong.

"I just knew that I had to get to whatever was out there," Anderson testified in 2nd District Court on Monday. "Those screams — they just bothered me. I knew someone was hurt."

Anderson testified that he ran to a knoll overlooking Pineview Reservoir and saw three shirtless men in a boat. Twice, Anderson said, he heard the men say, "Hey, lady, are you OK?" And when the boat left, heading west toward the setting sun, he saw someone bobbing in the water.

The boat — whose propeller fatally injured 49-year-old Fujimoto, a swimmer in the reservoir — was allegedly occupied by Colton Raines, 22, Robert Cole Boyer, 30, and Skyler Shepherd, 22.

The men were charged in connection to the incident, after prosecutors say they knew the woman was injured, and left her in the water.

All three are charged with class A misdemeanor obstructing justice. Raines and Shepherd also are charged with class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment and class B misdemeanor failure to render aid.

Monday marked the first day of trial for Raines and Boyer, while Shepherd was found guilty of the three misdemeanor charges in December, and was sentenced to 2 ½ years in jail last month.

Anderson testified Monday that he rowed out to Fujimoto, some 300 feet off the shoreline, and called 911 to report she had been horribly injured.

Jurors heard the emotional 911 call Anderson made that day from his 12-foot aluminum rowboat while clutching Fujimoto’s hand, trying to keep her head above water.

In the phone call, Anderson told the dispatcher that he saw the boat that had hit the woman speed off quickly after a man asked her if she was OK.

"They went west — getting the hell out of Dodge," he yelled into the phone.

Anderson testified Monday that from six to 10 feet away from Fujimoto, he could see that her abdomen was severely injured. He saw what he thought were intestines coming out of her body, he said.

He testified that he never saw the extensive injuries to the woman’s legs, however, until she was pulled from the water by Weber County Sheriff’s deputies.

"I wish I had my eyes closed," he said Monday.

Weber County Deputy John Millaway testified Monday that it took deputies about 12 to 14 minutes to find Anderson and Fujimoto in the water. When she was pulled into his boat, he said, her eyes were fixed, she had no pulse and she wasn’t visibly bleeding.

Anderson said the area where he found Fujimoto was not a no-wake zone, so it was not illegal for boats to motor in the area. However, it is also not illegal for a swimmer to be in the area.

Boyer’s attorney, Rebecca Skordas, urged the jury during her opening statements to look at the "cold, hard facts" in the case, and ask "difficult questions," including why Fujimoto was swimming where she was in a dark wetsuit at dusk.

"They have suffered a terrible loss," Skordas said of Fujimoto’s family. "They are hurting, but you have to look at the hard facts, and ask difficult questions."

But Deputy Weber County Attorney Teral Tree stressed to the jury that the focus for the case should not be on the accident, but what happened afterwards.

"This is not a case about who’s at fault for the initial incident — Mr. Raines or Esther," Tree said. "The issue in this case is what happened after she was struck."

Shepherd, the owner of the boat, told a detective with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office that the three men were boating near the Spring Creek Cove area of Pineview Reservoir at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 21 , 2011, when their boat hit Fujimoto, a University of Utah medical researcher.

Shepherd told police that Raines was driving the boat at the time of the accident, but when they circled back to check on the woman, Shepherd had taken the wheel. Shepherd told police that Fujimoto told them she was OK, so they left.

Raines and Boyer have never talked with police about the incident.

Witnesses who were with the three men earlier that day have previously testified that they spent the day at "Party Cove," and all three men consumed alcohol. Witnesses said Raines and Boyer also smoked marijuana earlier in the day.

Trial for the two men will resume Tuesday.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller

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