Judge denies diversion in 2010 river crash that killed Elizabethton man

9:51 am | November 30, 2012

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A judge in Chattanooga has denied a diversion request from the pilot of a towboat that collided with a small fishing boat on the Tennessee River.

Charles Warren Luetke is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the 2010 incident that killed Tim Spidle, 45, of Elizabethton, and Richard Wilkey, 52, of Soddy-Daisy.

Wilkey’s nephew, David “Chris” Wilkey, survived the June 19, 2010, crash when the 671-foot barge tow struck the fishing boat.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman upheld prosecutor Cameron Williams’ denial of pretrial diversion for Luetke. The pilot is also charged with reckless operation of a boat and failure to render assistance. His attorney entered not guilty pleas for him earlier.

The next scheduled hearing in the case is in January. Steelman asked Luetke’s attorney, Samuel Hudson, to look into whether he could file a pretrial appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals on denial of diversion before the hearing.

River transportation company Serodino Inc., which employed Luetke at the time of the crash, filed a federal court motion six months after the incident, seeking to limit its liability in the deaths. David Wilkey and family members of the victims oppose it. That case is scheduled for civil trial in U.S. District Court on July 23, 2013.

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