NC dad cleared of charges in boat crash that left mom of 3 dead

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) — Family members of a woman who died in a boating accident are calling for a new investigation into the crash that took her life.

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CLICK TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE INCIDENT AND THOSE INVOLVED

Jennifer Lee Faircloth, age 37, the mother of 3 children, died in a boating accident on July 4, 2013.

Larry Scott Duncan, Jennifer’s boyfriend for 18 years and the father of two of her children, was charged in connection with the crash that killed her.

Duncan was charged with involuntary manslaughter, operating a boat while under the influence and reckless operation of a boat.

But recently, results came back from the state lab, showing his blood alcohol was a .04, which is below the legal limit.

This month, the involuntary manslaughter and boating while impaired charges were dropped.

Both his family and her family are upset that Duncan was charged in the first place.

July 4, 2013

The crash that took  Jennifer Faircloth’s life happened on the Northeast Cape Fear River. Faircloth and Duncan were traveling by boat to watch fireworks downtown.

Faircloth’s brother, his children and one of Jennifer and Scott’s children were following in a boat behind them when the crash happened.

A 911 caller stated to dispatchers, “We’re overlooking the river right now. There’s a bend in the river and one boat just hit another boat out here and there are people in the water.”

Claudia Spuhler was sitting outside with her family when the crash happened.

“There was a really loud crash and debris all over,” she said. “My son was trying to save the girl, which unfortunately, she was already gone.”

Faircloth was pronounced dead at the scene.

Duncan was taken to the hospital and listed in serious condition. The driver of the other boat, Michael Delone Troy Sr., and his family were not injured in the crash.

An officer from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission was called in to investigate. Troy consented to a breathalyzer on the scene, which was negative, according to a report from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

The investigator found no alcoholic beverages in Troy’s vessel, which he photographed and examined before allowing Troy to leave the scene.

Investigators found several unopened cans of Bud Light in Duncan’s boat, which was impounded.

Upon searching his truck, which was used to take the boat to the river on July 4, wildlife officers said they found 216 pills, three prescription pill bottles and a receipt for Bud Light purchased on the day of the crash.

At the hospital, Duncan’s serum blood was tested. It revealed he had a .09 alcohol content.

His blood was also positive for both oxycodone, medication his mother, Kathy Jackson, said was prescribed to him following a surgery months before.

Charged

District Attorney Ben David held a press conference a month after the crash, after the grand jury indicted Duncan on charges of involuntary manslaughter, operating a boat while under the influence and reckless operation of a boat.

“We know that we are not just talking about young people that have lost a mother, but are now seeing their father charged with a very serious crime,” David said. “We know that there will be sympathy in this case, but sympathy is at the time of sentencing, not at the time of charging.”

The charges, for the family, added to the pain of dealing with the loss of Faircloth.

“It hasn’t been easy for anybody,” said Dixie Horne, Faircloth’s mother. “It has not been easy for Scott’s family. It was really hard on the girls when they charged their father.”

Faircloth had three children, two were fathered by Duncan.

His family refuses to believe he was drinking before the crash.

Jackson said her son doesn’t remember much from that day because of his injuries from the crash.

“I know that Jennifer would never got on that boat if she had any idea that he was intoxicated,” she said.

Since the accident, Duncan and his family have been fighting the charges against him.

Cleared of two charges

Duncan was cleared of two of the charges when results came back from his whole blood test, which Assistant District Attorney Doug Carriker said is the standard for measuring impairment.

The results from the state lab showed Duncan’s blood alcohol was .04, which is under the legal limit.

The blood tested in the hospital was “serum” blood, which is the liquid that remains when blood is collected without an anti-coagulant. It tends to have higher alcohol contents than whole blood.

The test results cleared Duncan of the involuntary manslaughter and impaired boating charges.

Carriker said he was surprised at the results of Duncan’s blood test from the state lab.

However, he said based on the information collected by investigators at the start of the probe into the accident, the charges were understandable.

Judge John Nobles sentenced Duncan to a suspended 30 day sentence with 12 months of unsupervised probation.

His family is upset about all the heartache they’ve endured since the accident.

“They treated him very unfair,” Jackson said about the charges brought against her son.

Horne said the case against Duncan added an unnecessary burden on their already grieving family.

“It tears a family apart, tore my daughter’s family apart, knowing that they charged their father, drug him through the media, on a charge and come out that there is no charge,” she said.

Faircloth’s mother said the investigation leaves her with unanswered questions.

“What happened the last minutes of her life here on this earth?” she asked. “I would love to know. Over two years I’ve tried to ask questions and I was told, ‘When you’re impaired you’re charged. It’s his fault.’ And now, there is no impairment.”

Duncan pleaded no contest this month to a charge of reckless boating.

According to the Wildlife officer’s report, both Duncan and Troy both turned their boats before the crash.

Troy was in a 17-foot vessel with a 70 horsepower Suzuki outboard motor.

Duncan was in a 14-foot Lowe boat, powered by a 25 horsepower Johnson tiller outboard motor.

The Wildlife Resources Commission report states Troy followed federal navigation rules for what to do in a head-on situation, turning his boat starboard or to the right.

Duncan didn’t, turning right into the path of the other boat.

Copyright 2015 WECT. All rights reserved.

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