Tragedy unfolds in Mount Isa, Australia, where a father has been charged in the killing of one of his two sons. Shane Michael Parkes, 34, was allegedly operating a jet ski while "drugged" when he lost control and crashed into his child Tobi, 9, in shallow waters. Parkes openly wept during his hearing on January 25th as charges were heard and he was denied bail. The incident took place on Lake Moondarra, an artificial lake in Queensland, last November. His younger son Dylan, 6 was riding the jet ski at the time, and likewise sustained serious injuries during the crash. He was flown to Townsville for further treatment. Parkes was admitted to the hospital with head injuries from the incident but was discharged within one day.
On the very day of his court hearing, however, Parkes was pulled over and charged with "drug driving" after dropping Dylan off at school. Police allege that Parkes failed his roadside drug test and was required to give a sample of his breath. This returned a small reading. Upon questioning, Parkes allegedly stated that he had just consumed a half bottle of hand sanitizer. When asked why, Parkes reasoned that he already knew he would test positive for "drug driving."
The police prosecutor detailed Parkes' decade-long criminal history at the hearing, which includes his alleged involvement in a major drug-trafficking ring in Queensland. At the time of the jet ski incident, Parkes was on bail for his trafficking crimes, which prosecutors had opposed. Parkes was among 25 individuals arrested by Queensland police in the large scale drug bust last July. Police allegedly seized $1.45 million in property, with "a total of 151 grams of methamphetamines" as well as "1.5 kilograms of cannabis."
Parkes' legal representative stated his client "continued to occasionally smoke weed" after the trafficking charge, "principally to help ease the stress and the burden" associated with the charge.
Police theorize that Parkes may have been trying to playfully spray Tobi, who vanished underwater after being struck by his father's jet ski. A 19-hour police search was conducted at the scene before Tobi's body was recovered. The jet ski was forensically examined in an attempt to determine exactly how Tobi died.
Parkes will return to Mount Isa Magistrates Court on April 18, facing one count each of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death, operate ship while unlicensed, operate ship while not registered and drug driving. The boys' mother Ashley Iles was standing on the bank at the time of the crash and has not commented on the incident or court proceedings.
The equivalent charge in the United States, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a serious offense that could incur jail time, heavy fines, and even a criminal record. Every state in the union has made legal sanctions against BUIs, with the US Coast Guard positioning them as more hazardous than DUI's. Alcohol consumption plays a role in approximately 34% of boating fatalities. BUI checkpoints exist, and some states do not even require probable cause to board an individual's watercraft.
In the state of Washington, a person accused of a BUI faces gross misdemeanor charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and at most a $5,000 penalty. The verbiage of Washington's BUI law allows for individuals to be charged even if their BAC is under the legal limit. If convicted, a BUI will be considered a "prior offense" if the individual is accused of a DUI thereafter. This has the potential to dramatically increase penalties if convicted of a DUI.