published Friday, March 4th, 2011

Chattanooga: Tugboat operator pleads not guilty in deadly fishing boat crash


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press The towboat Bearcat pushes a group of barges to the lock at the Chickamauga Dam on Wednesday.

A tugboat operator indicted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the deaths of two fishermen pleaded not guilty to the charges this morning.

Warren Luetke, 39, did not show up for his arraignment hearing before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman. Instead, his Sequatchie County-based attorney, Sam Hudson, entered the pleas on his behalf.

Last June, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency investigators identified Luetke as the operator of the Bearcat, a 647-foot tugboat-barge combination that crashed into a fishing boat occupied by three men.

Reports show Luetke ran over the boat without seeing it and didn’t stop the rig until TWRA investigators flagged him down.

Tim Spidle, 45, of Elizabethton, Tenn., and Soddy-Daisy native Richard Wilkey, 52, died after the June 19 accident on the Tennessee River in Chickamauga Lake as they fished on a 1977 16-foot Glastron. David “Chris” Wilkey, 37, survived the crash.

The fishing boat was found to be within the navigation channel, and men on the small craft were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both, toxicology reports show.

Read more in tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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detown2 said...

About tim spidle it dosnt matter if there was alcohol or marijauana invovled the fact of the matter is the tug boat operator or the tug boat spotters never seen the 16 foot fishing boat that tim,rikky,&david wilkey where on infact the barge had to be flagged down by twra people so what they had in there system should be erellavant how can the barge not think that there not liable because in my opinion the only one on that barge that was doing there job was the tug boat operator they should have cameras on them vessles if the spotters don't seem to think they have a job to do 3 men go out for a day of fishing & fun the next thing you know 2 of the 3 are dead and kids brothers sisters mothers fathers and family members are left with there worlds turned upside down becaue of neglagence & denial of a company

July 25, 2011 at 7:40 a.m.
daddylilgrl said...

i lost my daddy in that boat crash Tim Spidel and its not fair that he was taken from me when i needed him the most i think the man driving the tug boat should be punished in some way how could he not see a fishing boat right in his way the company should take some responsiblity as well as the man driving the tug boat and i hope he realizes how much has turned my world upside down my daddy was my world and ill never see him again or get to tell him i love him and not to mention getting a phone call on fathers day to hear that your daddy wont ever be coming home again the pain will never go away and my heart will never be whole again

January 9, 2012 at 1:25 a.m.
IMAGOD2 said...

It's truely sad that human life was lost and that family members are permanently effected, you have MY heart felt condolences !!!

BUT, to put it into perspective.......consider a semi traveling at the posted speed limit down the interstate, and an innocent harmless cute little birdy flies right in front of it and SPLAT ! Would you hold the truck driver criminally neglegent ????? It's NOT the same thing.....NOT a human life...doesn't REALLY matter...it was just an accident ?????

OK, now consider a cyclist or a pedestrian going half way out into a crosswalk while the oncoming traffic has a green light and SPLAT ! NOW who's REALLY at fault ??? STILL not the same thing ?

Well let's make it REAL, shall we: when THREE drunk AND stoned fisherman make a conscious choice to drop anchor in the bouy marked shipping lane and tempt fate, all the while having the possability, had they NOT had the altered state of mind, to start up the motor of the quick & nimble much smaller craft AND get themselves the hell out of the way, to overt the pending disaster which THEY themselves SHOULD've seen coming from OVER a half mile away !!!! NOW "you" get IT.......

In no way, was the captain, able to SEE or even know what was TWO football fields ahead & TWENTY feet below HIS vessel with any kind of certainty! Unless the Judge is a pot smoking, alcoholic, fisherman HE'll have no choice other then to DISMISS the charges against Mr. Luetke !!!!!!! The tug boat company on the other hand could share the blame for NOT requiring a look-out at ALL times ?? But, it was still IMPOSSIBLE to STOP or even change course of such a large vessel on a dime, thus making the fisherman, under the influence of DRUGS or ALCOHOL or NOT responsible for their own FATE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 15, 2012 at 8:53 p.m.
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