McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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October 24, 2013

July 4th widow waits for justice

McALESTER — The wife of man who died after a July 4 hit-and-run boating accident on Lake Eufaula said she wants justice for her family.

Linda McIninch’s husband, Gary McIninch, was found dead two days after he disappeared into Lake Eufaula after watching holiday fireworks on the lake. He was ejected from a pontoon boat that was hit by a 20-foot ski boat allegedly piloted by Ryan Shumway, of McAlester. 

No arrests have been made in the case, but Shumway was identified in an accident report filed by the Oklahoma Lake Patrol.

Four days after the accident, Shumway came forward to investigators  through his attorney and made himself and his boat available for the investigation, according to District 25 District Attorney Rob Barris.

Whether charges will be filed in the case hinges on a medical examiner’s report, according to Barris. He said he needs the report to determine how Gary McIninch died.

On Tuesday, the Chief Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that a report on McIninch’s death is not yet complete.

Several witnesses reported to police they watched as the boat that hit the pontoon circled around and then left the scene. A boat driven by an off-duty police officer stopped to help while several other boats drove past the scene, according to the report.

Two of McIninch’s granddaughters were hospitalized after the accident, according to Linda McIninch and the patrol report. Six-year-old Tori suffered a head injury and 7-seven-year-old Briana had a broken leg, Linda McIninch said. Both children were flown by medical aircraft to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and were later released.

Linda McIninch said she’s still grieving for her husband. He would have been 56 today.

“He gave his life to save his grandkids and he was a loving husband, father and grandfather,” she said.

“He was an amazing man who would give his shirt off his back for anyone in need. 

“He loved the outdoors and would go hunting, fishing, boating, whatever he could to be outdoors. 

“He was a hard worker and friend and was loved and admired by everyone that knew him.”

She said the loss is magnified by a lack of arrests in the case.

“I want the person responsible for my husband’s death to be charged,” she told the News-Capital.

A phone number for Shumway has been disconnected. On Wednesday, his attorney Warren Gotcher said the case is still under investigation and he had no comment.

On the night of the accident, Shumway was allegedly piloting a 1999 Crownline ski boat with no lights and three passengers when it hit the pontoon boat, according to an accident report. The pontoon boat had been anchored to another boat at the time.

The report states Shumway told police he was traveling at about 30 mph when he hit the vessel.

Witnesses report Shumway was traveling closer to 40 mph, according to the report.

The investigating trooper also stated in the report that “he believes that alcohol also played a factor but cannot conclude due to the fact that Shumway left the scene and did not come forward until four days later.”

Linda McIninch described the accident in the report.

“I was on the ladder on the ski boat climbing in when I heard everyone screaming,” she told police. “I heard a boat hit the metal on the pontoon and then I heard the boat go over my head. I tried to find my husband and to see if everyone was okay.”

Another passenger of the group was in the water next to the boats.

The group had just finished watching the finale of a fireworks display over the lake, according to the report, when witnesses said they heard screaming. Some witnesses reported screaming at the driver of the boat coming at them, the report states.

The boat crashed into the pontoon boat, sending Gary McIninch overboard into the lake, according to the report.

Another witness reported screaming for the boat to stop and trying to make sure his children were safe.

“We see the boat coming at us and everybody started screaming at them trying to get them stopped,” Kenneth Noak stated in the report. “The boat came over the front of the pontoon and over the top of the ski boat ... I was so frantic trying to make sure my kids were okay....”

After hitting the pontoon, which had been carrying 10 people — including five children — the ski boat landed atop the nearby Stingray boat with four people on board.

The driver of the pontoon, Ronald Roberts, reported he had been sitting in the driver’s seat when he looked over the windshield and saw the boat coming straight at them.

“I yelled at everybody to look out, ‘He’s going to hit us,’” he said in a written statement included in the accident report. “I saw the boat hit our boat. His boat shoved our bow up.

“It was pitch dark (...) the boat was going so fast that its momentum shot the other boat over our boat.”

Roberts said as soon as the boat cleared the pontoon, it came down on the other boat tied to the pontoon, according to the report.

Another witness, Victoria Essary, also reported seeing the boat hit and then screaming for her son.

“(The) boat slammed into the boat my son was on and flew over the top of the boat I was in (...) I was thrown in the water and started screaming for my son Maddox.

“By then we realized Gary (McIninch) was missing and we started screaming his name ... I checked over both injured girls and stayed with them until they were mediflighted to OU, ” Essary said in the report.

Meanwhile, Linda McIninch said her two granddaughters are recovering.

“The grandkids are recovering as well as can be expected,” she said. “Tori has made a full recovery from her injuries and is back to a normal 6-year-old. Briana finished her rehabilitation for her broken femur last week but will still need surgery in December to remove the rods from her leg.” 

A medical trust fund for the victims of the accident has been set up at First Fidelity Bank in the name of the Gary McIninch Tragedy Trust Fund, Linda McIninch said.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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