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Walter Gerken Killed, Brandon Smith Arrested, Fatal Lake Oroville Boat Accident (May 13)

Brandon Smith, 29, Charged with BUI, Involuntary Manslaughter

OROVILLE, Calif. (May 14, 2018) – Walter Gerken, 27, who lived in the Paradise/Chico community, died when a 2006 Supra water ski boat reportedly crashed into the shore Sunday afternoon in the Dark Canyon area of Lake Oroville, near the West Branch Bridge, according to the Butte County Cal Fire Department and coroner’s office.

The driver of the boat, identified as Brandon Smith, 29, was arrested on charges of Boating Under the Influence (BUI). He was released on bail and faces involuntary manslaughter charges for the death of Gerken.

A team of roughly 30 rescue workers and six fire trucks rescued a total of five people ages 17 to 29 years old who were ejected from the boat during the crash. Three people were transported to hospitals after the collision. One person was found in 40-foot-deep water dead after a search of the area, according to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident took place about 6:30 p.m. on Mother’s Day. Initially, the incident was reported as two boats colliding, but updates indicated it was a solo collision.

The incident remains under investigation.


In the aftermath of this boating collision, police have charged the driver with involuntary manslaughter and boating under the influence. These are serious criminal charges due to the severity of the injuries and the death of one of the passengers. Under California law, a person who is hurt in a collision due to negligence may recoup their financial losses in a civil lawsuit or insurance claim.

If you were injured in a boating accident, it’s likely that there will be significant financial losses such as medical bills, lost wages and more. Johnson Attorneys Group has been handling these types of cases throughout California for more than a decade. We urge you to contact us to request a free consultation so that we may guide you through the steps and ensure your case is handled professionally and compassionately.  Please call us for a free consultation at 855-703-4186.

— Johnson Attorneys Group is a proud, longtime supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). 

James Johnson

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