Concord – March 1, 2010 – A year and a half after Erica Blizzard crashed her boat on Lake Winnipesaukee, killing one friend and badly injuring the other, she will stand trial on charges she was intoxicated at the time and failed to keep a proper lookout. Jury selection begins today in Belknap County Superior Court, with the trial scheduled to start next Monday.
Blizzard, 36, of Laconia, is charged with two counts of negligent homicide in the death of 34-year-old Stephanie Beaudoin of Meredith and aggravated driving while intoxicated for the injuries suffered by her other friend, Nicole Shinopulos of Burlington, Mass.
Blizzard is an experienced boater and was president of the New Hampshire Recreational Boaters Association when she crashed her boat into rocky Diamond Island on June 15, 2008. At the time, Blizzard was preparing to take over the family business, Lakeport Landing marina, from her father, Paul Blizzard, who was moving toward retirement.
One of the negligent homicide charges alleges that Blizzard was under the influence when she hit the island at 2:30 a.m., killing Beaudoin. The other alleges Blizzard wasn’t keeping a proper lookout when she crashed. The first version carries a prison sentence of 7½ to 15 years. The other two charges each carry sentences of 3½ to seven years in prison. Blizzard is represented by Concord attorney James Moir. She has undergone several surgeries since the crash.
Meanwhile, Blizzard has been named in a civil lawsuit filed by Lakes Region Marine Construction, the outfit that recovered and removed Blizzard’s boat after the crash at the request of the New Hampshire Department of Marine Patrol. The company initially sued the state seeking payment of its $33,390 bill. The state then moved to add Blizzard as a defendant, saying that she, not the state, is responsible for the bill.
The criminal trial promises to be a difficult and emotional one for both sides, with Blizzard on trial for the death and injuries suffered by her good friends. Just after the crash, Beaudoin’s sister, Linda Hamilton, told the Monitor that boating with Blizzard was Beaudoin’s favorite thing to do.
Shinopulos, who suffered facial injuries in the crash, is on the state’s witness list. And Blizzard will join jurors on the first day of the trial to view her damaged powerboat.
Belknap County Attorney James Carroll, who is prosecuting the case, said given the three women’s close friendship, this case is “a difficult process to walk through.”
“I think you have to be sensitive to everybody’s loss,” Carroll said. “But my job is what it is. I certainly try to be objective in decision making and compassionate in understanding the losses everyone has suffered.”
He declined to say whether Shinopulos is a willing witness. “I prefer not to talk about that,” he said. “She’s also a victim in this case.”
Moir was away from his office last week and could not be reached. The list he filed with the court has seven witnesses, some of them experts in toxicology testing and boat crashes. Blizzard’s blood was tested for alcohol several times after the crash. Moir tried to keep at least some of the results out of trial, but Judge Kathleen McGuire ruled the blood test results were admissible. The results have not been disclosed publicly.
Carroll’s witness list includes 30 people, many of them officials who responded to the scene, treated Blizzard and Shinopulos or investigated the case. The trial is scheduled to last between four and five days, and it’s not certain Carroll will call all of the witnesses. He’ll call those who can “trace the night” of the crash for jurors, he said.
Court records reveal a bit about what the three women were doing before the crash. Shinopulos told a Marine Patrol officer that she, Blizzard and Beaudoin were on Sleeper’s Island on Lake Winnipesaukee until about 8 p.m., then left to get dinner and drinks at the Wolfe Trap restaurant in Wolfeboro.
Shinopulos told Officer Joshua Dirth she had ordered a mixed drink but disliked it and ordered a Bud Light beer instead, according to Dirth’s report. Blizzard and Beaudoin each had “two (mixed drinks), if that,” she said.
They left the restaurant about 11 p.m. and went to Blizzard’s father’s house on Governor’s Island to decorate the lawn for Fathers Day, which was the following day. Shinopulos said the three stayed there about 15 minutes and then returned to Sleeper’s Island, Dirth’s report said.
He described Shinopulos as somewhat disorientated during questioning at the hospital. And in her ruling on the blood test evidence, McGuire called Shinopulos’s timing “questionable” because the ride from Governor’s Island to Sleeper’s Island should take only 10 minutes.
But according to Shinopulos, the women left Governor’s Island nearly three hours before Blizzard crashed the boat into Diamond Island, according to court records.
The loud crash awoke Dr. Tom Rock, who was sleeping in his camp on Diamond Island. He and his wife were the first to discover the crash and call the authorities. At Rock’s request, Shinopulos told him her name and the names of the two others in the boat. Rock and his wife realized then that they knew the women, he told the Monitor after the crash.
He said he attempted to resuscitate Beaudoin with CPR but couldn’t because she wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. When the authorities arrived, they noted in their report there were three empty Bud Light cans with the boat.
Rock is also on the state’s witness list.