Boat owner to pay $116K in restitution for clean up after grounding boat.

June 27, 2018

The Tica, Coast Guard photo

Boat owner to pay $116K in restitution for clean up after grounding boat.

#MasonCountyNews.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Prosecutor’s Office recently instituted charges against Randall Keith West, 51, of Grayling for the misdemeanor offense of reckless operation of a vessel.  The charge comes following the April 15, 2017 grounding of West’s 76-foot fiberglass wrapped wooden hull vessel, the Tica. West grounded the boat near Big Sable Point, off the shore of the Ludington State Park in Hamlin Township, when it started taking on water.

Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Spaniola said West was notified by Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials as well as U.S. Coast Guard officials at the time that it was his responsibility to remove the watercraft from its location where he abandoned it.  

“Mr. West failed to do so in a timely manner and the grounded vessel soon broke apart causing considerable damage to the Lake Michigan ecosystem with a large debris field fouling the Lake Michigan beach in Hamlin Township, Pere Marquette Township, City of Ludington and nearby areas,” Spaniola said. “Extensive efforts have been made by contractors, DNR employees, and volunteers to restore the water and beach areas.”

An investigation conducted by the Environmental investigation Section of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, led by Detective Holly Pennoni, determined that West had purchased the Tica in 2016 in Florida and that he made extensive repairs to this unseaworthy vessel on his own, intending to sell it for a considerable profit, Spaniola said. “The Coast Guard had inspected the Tica in 2015 and determined that the vessel was at risk for discharging diesel fuel and oil into waters.  Nonetheless, Mr. West made some repairs, and set forth on April 15, 2017 from Pentwater en route to Traverse City on his ill-fated voyage aboard the Tica.”

On June 25, 2018, a plea agreement was entered between Randall West and the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office whereby West pled responsible to the offense of littering and in exchange the charge of reckless operation of a vessel was dismissed.  He was assessed fines and costs of $150.00. Additionally West was assessed restitution to the State of Michigan in the amount $116,862.21 for clean up and remediation.  He is to perform an additional 100 hours of community service work over the course of the next eight months.  

“Unfortunately this was a no win situation from the start,” Spaniola said.  “What we had was the single most important natural resource for not only the 28,000 residents of Mason County but also the tens of thousands of annual visitors, defiled by one careless, ignorant act of one person.  The community was justifiably outraged.

“As a frequent visitor to Ludington State Park myself, seeing the damage and the sheer mountains of wooden debris clogging the beach, washing up on shore, floating up and down the shore, was painful.   Huge credit goes to the Ludington State Park staff, park manager Jim Gallie, Jr., the Department of Natural Resources, the Friends of Ludington State Park, and the contractors and volunteers who spent hundreds of man-hours cleaning up Mr. West’s mess.  The beach, once again, can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. For that we can all be thankful.”

As for the terms of the resolution, Spaniola stated “While certainly it was not Mr. West’s intention to wreck his vessel and spoil Lake Michigan and our beach, the unique factual situation presented here did not fit easily into any of the state laws governing operation of watercraft and/or pollution.  I sought to charge Mr. West with the most appropriate charge available. In the end, the disposition as a littering case was the most appropriate resolution, coupled with a restitution judgment in the amount of $116,862. While anger is a reasonable emotional response to the desecration of our Great Lakes, state law did not provide the opportunity for a more significant sanction against Mr. West.”

 

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