News

Lake Tapps death brings charge of homicide

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Sept. 29 became a night of tragedy on Lake Tapps, following a boat collision that left one man dead, others with serious injuries and one man charged with felony crimes including watercraft homicide.

Ronald Scott, 49, a resident of Bonney Lake, died following the collision.

Neil Larsen, also a resident of Bonney Lake, reportedly drove his boat into Scott’s 18-foot Bayliner, killing him and causing serious injuries to at least two women who were aboard.

Bonney Lake police officers and East Pierce Fire and Rescue emergency crews received the call of a collision on the lake at 10:39 p.m. The officers and East Pierce crews went to the area about 400 feet south of the 4900 block of 197th Avenue East at the south end of Interlake Island.

According to charging papers from the Pierce County prosecutor’s office, the police officers went past the residences to the shoreline and could see the two vessels with people on both boats.

Residents said they heard the crash and could hear people crying and yelling that someone was missing.

There were five people aboard Larsen’s craft and seven in Scott’s. The papers noted all but one in Scott’s vessels were transported to area hospitals. One woman suffered a near amputation and another woman a severe fracture.

Residents assisted police and the emergency crews by towing the boats to shore. Officers were told by the people involved in the collision that Scott was missing.

“The citizens on the lake worked with the police and everyone wanted to help,” Police Chief Mike Mitchell said.

Dive team members from East Pierce and the Pierce County Water Rescue came to the scene. After searching in the dark water for two hours, Scott’s body was found. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A witness from Scott’s boat told detectives he was seated in the left rear section of the craft and they were traveling about 3 to 4 mph. According to the charging documents the man said he heard another passenger yell to Scott to “move right, move right. I don’t think he sees you!”

The witness said he turned and saw Larsen’s boat bearing down at a high rate of speed.

When Larsen came to shore with the boats, he told the officers he was traveling south at about 20 mph. He admitted to consuming two mixed drinks at a restaurant prior to the collision.

According to the charging papers, the officers could smell alcohol on Larsen and saw open containers of Miller Chill beverages.

Larsen refused a portable breath test and was arrested.

According to the charging papers, while Larsen was seated in a patrol car he told an officer he had the boat throttle “wide open.”

Police officials said Larsen’s boat hit the rear of Scott’s boat and went over the top diagonally. The propeller caused many of the injuries and the rudder was lodged in the engine compartment of Scott’s boat.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Larsen with one count of watercraft homicide and four counts of watercraft assault.

Larsen’s attorney entered not guilty pleas Oct. 1 in Pierce County Superior Court and Judge Lisa Worswick released him on his own recognizance.

Mitchell said officers are continuing to investigate the collision with Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies.

“This is a tragic case of someone trying to have a good time and making a very poor choice,” Mitchell said.

Reach Dennis Box at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.

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