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Boating fatality trial set to begin

N.H. woman faces homicide charges

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / March 8, 2010

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LACONIA, N.H. - As the head of the New Hampshire Recreational Boaters Association, Erica Blizzard was an ardent opponent of boating speed limits, once testifying to state lawmakers that proposed limits for New Hampshire’s largest lake were “based strictly on fear and emotion.’’

Months later, prosecutors say Blizzard was reckless and impaired at 2:20 a.m. on Father’s Day 2008 when her 37-foot speedboat crashed into a ledge on Lake Winnipesaukee with enough force to rip open its bow, killing her best friend and seriously injuring herself and another passenger after they pulled a prank on Blizzard’s father.

Blizzard’s trial on charges of negligent homicide begins today. Jurors will be taken to a public safety garage to view the damaged boat.

The parents of Stephanie Beaudoin, 34, who was killed in the crash, say they will not be there.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s completely done,’’ said her father, Edgar Beaudoin. “Our daughter’s gone and nothing will ever bring her back. She was our youngest. They can’t say anything that will satisfy us. It was negligence to the point of no return.’’

Blizzard, 36, of Lakeport, has undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries due to severe injuries to her face, the most recent one in January. Nicole Shinopulos of Burlington, Mass., the other passenger, suffered a broken jaw. The three were heading through rain and fog to Shinopulos’s vacation home on Sleeper Island when the accident happened. Police said they found three empty beer cans bobbing amid the boat’s wreckage.

Blizzard’s lawyer maintains she was not impaired or driving recklessly.

The trial is expected to fuel legislative debate over whether to extend a pilot program setting speed limits on Lake Winnipesaukee. Those speed limits - 45 miles per hour during the day and 25 miles per hour at night - are scheduled to expire Dec. 31. Lake Winnipesaukee is the state’s largest lake and the only one subject to speed limits.

Shinopulos told investigators the three had a leisurely dinner and two cocktails each at Wolftrap Tavern on the lake from about 8 to 11 p.m., when they left for Paul Blizzard’s house to play an annual Father’s Day prank. They had littered Paul Blizzard’s yard with campaign signs with his picture superimposed on them. Shinopulos told investigators that Blizzard did not appear intoxicated. “There was nothing that would have made me think she was impaired at all,’’ Shinopulos said, according to a court document.

Attorney James Moir, the lawyer for Blizzard, filed motions to bar from evidence the results of six blood samples that were drawn from Blizzard in the hours after the accident. The first was taken without a warrant barely two hours after the accident. Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire denied Moir’s motions, saying the circumstances of the case warranted the samples.

The results of those tests, which will indicate Blizzard’s blood alcohol content, are expected to be made public during the trial. Belknap County Attorney James Carroll denied a request to release the results in advance of trial.

Blizzard has been free on a $75,000 bond. Conditions of her bond bar her from having contact with Beaudoin’s family or Shinopulos.

She is charged with two counts of negligent homicide - one alleging she was operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the other for failing to keep a proper lookout. She is also charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with Shinopulos’s injuries. If convicted of the alcohol-related negligence charge, she faces a sentence of 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison.