The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

May 23, 2013

Alcohol cited as factor in Grand Lake boat crash that killed two college students

LANGLEY, Okla. — Alcohol was one of several factors contributing to a boating accident on Grand Lake earlier this month that claimed the lives of two college students.

According to a preliminary report issued by the Grand River Dam Authority on Wednesday, the driver of the boat told investigators he had had 10 beers and a shot of tequila in the hours leading up to the accident. That driver, John Deselms, of Tulsa, also had taken antidepressant medication for which he did not have a prescription.

On May 14, Deselms was piloting a ski boat that at 5:45 p.m. hit a 100-foot docked houseboat that was not occupied at the Arrowhead Yacht Club in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake. The impact was such that the entire ski boat came to rest on the back deck of the houseboat.

Two people at the front of the ski boat — Rachel N. Swetnam, of Grove, Okla., and William L. Varner III, of Texarkana, Ark. — were killed. Both were 21-year-old students at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. Swetnam was set to graduate next year while Varner was to be a junior.

Deselms and another passeeenger, Taylor Perry of Springdale, Ark., were taken to Craig General Hospital in Vinita, according to the GRDA. There also were four other passengers on the boat who were not treated.

Deselms was cited at a Vinita hospital on a charge of operating a vessel under the influence. He wasn’t taken into custody because of his medical condition.

According to the GRDA preliminary report, excessive speed and driver inattention  also contributed to the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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