Freedom—July 24, 2019—A late-night hit and run boat crash near Long Sands a year ago was solved using a combination of old-fashioned detective work and tips from the public that stemmed from social media publicity about the incident.
That’s according to Sergeant Dave Ouelette of the Marine Patrol Division of the N.H. State Police. Ouelette was the lead investigator in the case, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of 31-year old Matiah F. Haloon of Tewskbury, Massachusetts.
Haloon was indicted on a Class B felony for failing to report an accident involving the operation of a vessel that caused personal injury and property damage.
As the result of a negotiated agreement, she pled guilty to a Class A misdemeanor on June 13, and was sentenced to 30 days, suspended. She was directed to pay $13,120 in restitution to Chubb Insurance and $680 to the owner of the boat. Additionally, she must perform 80 hours of community service and write a “meaningful letter of apology” to the victim. Her boat license was suspended for one year.
Haloon, who was staying on the lake as a guest, was piloting her host’s pontoon boat around midnight after the July 4th fireworks last year when she rammed a vessel that was moored near Long Sands and took off. Although it was dark, area residents were able to provide the Marine Patrol with a general description of the boat. They also reported hearing an onboard discussion that one of the passengers had facial lacerations and was bleeding.
The owner of the damaged boat used the Facebook group “I Boat on Ossipee Lake” to ask the public to provide tips to the Marine Patrol, a request that was also posted on the Ossipee Lake Alliance website.
Because they patrol all parts of Ossipee Lake, the Marine Patrol officers under Ouelette’s command are familiar with which boats reside where and who owns them. With that knowledge, Ouelette and officers Edward Boisvert and Michael Gendron began sleuthing and asking questions.
As word circulated that the accident was a felony crime and under serious investigation, a number of people eventually “stepped up and did the right thing” by providing tips that led officers to Haloon, Ouelette said.
State Boating Laws Are Clear
Accidents of any kind, let alone hit and run accidents, are relatively rare on Ossipee Lake, but boaters should understand what to do in case they’re involved in one, or witness one.
N.H. RSA 270:1-a provides that “The operator of a vessel who knows or reasonably should have known that he or she has just been involved in any accident that involved death, personal injury, or damage to property, shall immediately stop said vessel at the scene of the accident, render any assistance that he or she is capable of giving to the occupants of any other vessel involved in the accident, and give the operator or owner of any other vessel involved in such accident, and to any person injured, and to the owner of any property damaged, the operator’s name and the owner’s name and address, the vessel registration number, and the name and address of each occupant.”
Unless a Marine Patrol officer is on hand to write a report, the law further provides that the operator of a vessel involved in an accident must file a written report to the Department of Safety within fifteen days of the incident.
In an important way, a boat accident has the potential to be legally be more serious than an auto accident. Whereas state law pertaining to auto accidents references serious bodily injuries, state boating law references any injury.
A boater who fails to adhere to RSA 270:1-a risks being charged with a felony crime and faces serious consequences, as evidenced in the Haloon case.
The bottom line for Ouelette, who supervises Marine Patrol officers across much of the state, is promoting boater safety.
“There were more than 95,000 boat registrations in the state last year, and while most boaters are responsible operators, accidents can happen on the water just as they do on roadways. When they do, boaters have a duty to report them immediately. That’s the law.”