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Richardson left scene of houseboat accident within minutes
Gov. Bill Richardson, his chief of staff Brian Condit, budget secretary Katherine Miller and security officers were gone within minutes from the scene of an accident Saturday in which a houseboat was sideswiped and another was smashed into at Elephant Butte State Park, according to an eyewitness.
State officials have cited Condit with operating a vessel in a negligent manner and damaging another person’s property. He was at the helm of the houseboat that caused the accident.
Within three minutes of the houseboat docking the governor’s party took a small boat to shore. There they got into two vehicles and left, said Carl Shaw, Jr. whose houseboat was grazed in Saturday’s accident.
Shaw saw the events unfurl from his boat.
“It was like they tucked their heads and said see ya,” Shaw told the Independent in a phone interview. “That’s the question, why?
“The officers were there. So why weren’t they there,” Shaw added.
According to an incident report released publicly Wednesday, authorities arrived on the scene by 5:35 p.m., or 20 minutes after the accident occurred.
“Typically when you have an accident you stick around. You don’t leave the scene,” Shaw said.
The incident report released Wednesday does not mention the disappearance of the governor’s party, especially Condit.
The incident report leaves a lot of unanswered questions, in fact, including why the governor’s party left so quickly.
An e-mail message seeking a response from the governor’s office was not immediately returned.
Another unanswered question is why Condit was not interviewed the day of the accident, as were many witnesses.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, appeared to clear up that question Wednesday. Porter said that “The state’s boating law says the operator of a vessel has 48 hours to provide information about an accident, and Brian Condit complied with that.”
The investigating officers interviewed several witnesses at the marina the same day the accident happened. Many of them appear to recall the same sequence of events, which is recounted in the incident report:
A man later identified as Condit was seen operating “Bloody Mary,” a houseboat owned by Leon “Skip” Fay of Rio Rancho. Condit piloted the houseboat into the marina, but came too close to C-dock, sideswiping Shaw’s houseboat. Then the “Bloody Mary” accelerated. At this point Fay took control from Condit, but it was too late, witnesses said. The houseboat, thrust by momentum, headed across the slip toward D-dock and smashed into a second houseboat, “The Floating Irish.”
The incident report estimates the damage to “The Floating Irish” at more than $10,000. The reporting officer writes also that the owners of the Dam Site marina told him that underwater structures below D-dock were damaged. Shaw’s houseboat suffered very minimal damage.
Unlike many of the witnesses who spoke with officers the same day as the incident, the report notes that Condit called officer Chris Bolen two days later, on Monday.
Bolen took Condit’s statement. Condit also gave the officer the names of passengers on board the “Bloody Mary”.
Bolen then writes in the report, “I then asked Mr. Condit if he had been drinking alcohol that day. Mr. Condit stated that he had not been drinking alcohol and was not under the influence of alcohol prior to or during operation” of the “Bloody Mary.”
There is no explanation in the report of why Condit left the scene or why it took him two days to contact the officer.
It was a question still resonating with Shaw on Wednesday.
“Think about yourself,” Shaw said. “If you’ve ever been in an accident, you get out and make sure everybody is OK.”
“Where’s your friends?” Shaw said he asked Fay after the incident.
“He said, ‘They’re gone,’” Shaw recalled.
Shaw said Fay and his wife stayed around the marina.
“He stayed and took a lickin’,” Shaw said. “There were some upset people there.”