State rests its case against Tracy Gordon, charged in fatal 2019 boat crash on Lake Murray

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The state has rested its case in the trial of a man accused of felony boating under the influence in a fatal 2019 crash on Lake Murray.

A 68-year-old man was killed, and his family was hurt in the crash.

South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources says Tracy Gordon, of Elgin, was driving a cigarette boat on the night of September 21, 2019, when he hit the Kiser family’s pontoon boat.

Stanley Kiser died in the crash. His wife, Shawn, lost a leg, and his daughter Morgan suffered head injuries.

Prosecutors are attempting to paint the picture that Gordon was recklessly operating his boat on that September evening, causing the crash.

Testimony elicited that he had at least seven beers throughout the day.

The defense pushed back, with Gordon’s wife Angie testifying he was driving the boat safely, “like always,” she said.

She was called to the stand by prosecutors earlier in the week and was cross-examined by veteran defense attorney Jack Swerling, who is representing Tracy, on Friday.

The Kiser’s boat “came out of nowhere,” Angie testified.

Angie was in the boat with her husband at the time of the crash.

When asked what Tracy did when they noticed the Kiser’s boat, Angie said, “He jerked the wheel to the right to try to miss it, but at that time it was too close.”

She also testified that she did not remember seeing any lights on the Kiser’s boat.

When the crash happened, Angie said she went into “panic mode,” and explained why the couple did not go back to help the Kisers.

“I did not want to go to the boat because the screaming was just terrible,” she said. “And I thought if we go over there, we were the other parties in the accident, it would just make it worse on whoever was screaming because I didn’t know what was really happening on that boat.”

Gordon’s blood content level will not be submitted as evidence for the jury to consider.

However, Angie acknowledged that she and her husband drank at least three separate times while out on the water that day.

Deputy Solicitor Dan Goldberg, on redirect, sought to establish that she and the defendant did not have to drive their boat after drinking that night, and could have called an Uber or a friend.

Angie testified that her husband showed no signs of being drunk, and was not impaired when the crash happened.

Mark Passmore, who works as a dock manager near the Rusty Anchor restaurant on Lake Murray, said he never had concerns about Tracy driving his boat after leaving the establishment.

Passmore, the defense’s first witness, remembers seeing the defendant on that September evening.

“In your opinion, was Mr. Gordon intoxicated the night of September 21?” Defense attorney Alissa Wilson asked him.

“I can’t speak to that,” Passmore replied. “He didn’t appear to be drunk, he didn’t appear to alert any of my – there were no signals, no signs that could possibly be the case.”

Dr. Amy Durso, the forensic pathologist who performed Stanley’s autopsy, testified earlier Friday that she had never seen injuries “quite as bad as this.”

Defense attorney Joe McCulloch objected to her testimony.

He called it prejudicial to jurors due to its gruesome nature, and suggested that it was “only pertinent to engender passion.”

Judge Heath Taylor denied the defense’s motion for a directed verdict.

Testimony will extend into a second week, and resume on Monday morning.

In the years since the crash, the Kiser family has dedicated themselves to strengthening South Carolina’s boating safety law.

Their advocacy helped lead to the passing of a new law earlier this year, which requires anyone born after July 1, 2007, to pass a boater education course administered by DNR before operating a vessel.

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