Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez on Tuesday refused to issue an arrest warrant for hotelier Gordon “Butch” Stewart for his non-appearance at an inquest into a 2015 boating collision that left a 73-year-old man dead.
Stewart, the Sandals Resort chairman, was aboard a 90-foot yacht when it collided with a 15-foot boat occupied by the deceased, Timothy Ferguson, and two other relatives on April 3.
The court’s marshal, Inspector Edna Pratt, asked the coroner to order Stewart’s arrest after Sergeant 1414 Kalarico Burrows testified that he personally served Stewart with two writs and gave a third one to Stewart’s son while at Odyssey Aviation on October 18, 2018.
But Weech-Gomez said she could not “sensibly issue a warrant” based on Burrows’ evidence because he had failed to stipulate which court the summonses required Stewart to attend.
Stewart’s former boat captain, Neville Christie, testified yesterday via video-link from New York.
Christie, who worked for Stewart for 33 years, described the tragedy as an accident when questioned by his lawyer, Jerone Roberts.
Christie said he was piloting the vessel from the flybridge as they trolled for fish when he “heard a commotion in the cockpit”.
He recalled, “When I looked around, I saw a small boat in the water with two people and I said, ‘Jesus.’ I turned around immediately to see if I could get to them.”
Christie said he jumped overboard and brought the injured man and the other two men aboard the vessel. Christie described Ferguson’s injury as “severe” and said he radioed the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and police and “told them the situation”.
Christie said he was directed to remain in place and wait for law enforcement to arrive.
According to Christie, the marines arrived 30 minutes later, but, due to rough seas, he was instructed to follow the defense force vessel to the Prince George Wharf.
Christie recalled that the waves were about five to seven feet and the winds were about 25 knots.
Once back in Nassau, Christie said he gave police a statement and was taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol levels were tested.
Christie said no alcohol was detected.
Ramona Farquharson-Seymour, the attorney for Ferguson’s estate, asked Christie where the passengers were at the time of the collision.
He said, “I don’t know where they were, because I was paying attention to where I was going.”
Farquharson-Seymour asked if anyone attempted to administer first aid to the injured man.
Christie said, “The injuries were bigger than first aid; the injuries were very severe.”
Weech-Gomez, who is holding the inquest without a jury, will hear closing submissions on February 12.
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