Tahoe deaths were accident

ZEPHYR COVE -- Two men died at Lake Tahoe when the stolen WaveRunner they were riding slammed into a pier in the dark, Douglas County authorities determined Friday.

Their deaths initially had been investigated as possible homicides.

Driver Gregory Westbrook, 21, from Michigan, was killed instantly early Thursday when his neck snapped. His body was found in the lake. Charles Allan Williams, 24, of South Lake Tahoe, was seriously injured and apparently managed to crawl to shore, where he died several hours later, said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini.

"He was crawling around on his hands and knees when he was found," Pierini said.

The WaveRunner, a personal water craft stolen from Lakeside Marina, sped under a dock at the 4-H Campground next to Nevada Beach, scraping both men from the seat, investigators said.

Pierini said the WaveRunner was found floating in Lake Tahoe nearly two miles away several hours after the men were found.

"The Washoe County Coroner's Office determined both men died of blunt force trauma," Pierini said. "The deaths do appear to be accidental."

While authorities are waiting for the results of toxicology screenings, Pierini said both men had the odor of alcohol when they were found.

The accident appears to have occurred early Thursday morning. After taking the water craft, the pair rode north along the lake's shore before hitting the pier, investigators believe.

Hair, skin and a tooth mark were found on the pier where the men hit, Pierini said.

The water craft was apparently untouched in the collision and ran back toward the middle of Lake Tahoe, around Elks Point and back into Zephyr Cove, nearly two miles north of the accident.

"It was dark and there was no moon or any artificial light," Pierini said. "They were traveling at a rate of speed that was fairly high."

The stretch of beach where Williams was found is fenced off from both Edgewood Golf Course and Nevada Beach. Williams was found at 11:59 a.m. Thursday. He died of his injuries about 20 minutes later.

William's injuries were so severe that emergency personnel initially thought he might have been shot.

A high-speed chase starting in South Lake Tahoe shortly after he was found forced Douglas authorities to consider the possibility the two events were related. As it turned out, they were not.

However, Pierini said Friday he made it clear to his officers the people involved in the chase should not be allowed to escape, should it later be discovered that one incident had to do with the other.

"It would have been easy if the water craft had hit the pier," he said. "Then we would have been able to tell right away what happened."


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