The Salem man riding the personal watercraft that crashed into a group of children at Foster Reservoir in Sweet Home, killing one and injuring another, will not face charges.
The Linn County District Attorney's Office concluded that Antonio Cassanova-Gonzalez, 23, was not substantially aware of the potential risk and unjustifiable in his actions this past July when he removed his life jacket, setting off a chain of events that killed 6-year-old Zachary Maynard and injured Kennedy Swenson, also 6.
"Sadly, tragic accidents happen," Linn County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Cooney and Senior Deputy District Attorney Ari Yardumian wrote in a decision addressed to Detective Colin Pyle, who investigated the incident for the Linn County Sheriff's Office.
"However, not all rise to the level of a crime no matter how grave the consequences," the statement continued. "One could potentially be negligent in their actions and cause a tragic result without necessarily being 'criminally negligent.'"
On July 20, Cassanova-Gonzalez was operating a 2020 Seadoo on the reservoir near Lewis Creek County Park in when he stopped the vehicle. At the time he was wearing a life jacket equipped with an e-stop device, which can be used to shut off the engine if a rider falls off a watercraft.
According to the statement released on Friday, Cassanova-Gonzalez removed his life jacket to take his shirt off and, in doing so, placed the life jacket on top of the handles of the watercraft, sometimes referred to as a jet ski.
"It would appear that the weight and the manner in which the life jacket sat on the handle pressed the throttle down sufficiently to accelerate the jet ski and throw off the rider," the statement from the D.A.'s office read.
Because Cassanova-Gonzalez was no longer wearing the life jacket with the e-stop device, he had no way to stop the vehicle.
The jet ski continued into the wake area and eventually struck the two children. Maynard suffered severe head trauma and Swenson sustained a broken clavicle, lacerated liver and broken jaw.
Maynard passed away from his injuries on July 23, the same day Swenson was released from the hospital. She will continue to have dental procedures throughout her lifetime, her mother, Jessica, said at the time.
Cassanova-Gonzalez cooperated with the investigation, which spanned a little more than two months. The District Attorney's Office found that he was not intoxicated at the time of the incident and his actions did not rise to Oregon Revised Statute 161.085, which defines criminal negligence.
"Did he fail to be aware of some risk that such a thing could possibly happen (by removing his life jacket)? Perhaps," the statement read. "But we are unable to say that such a risk was substantial. Nor are we able to find that his failure to be aware of such a risk was a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise."
The law, the DA's Office said, does not allow Cassanova-Gonzalez's actions to be considered a crime.
"Zachary's life will never be forgotten," the statement read. "It appears he touched the lives of many people in his short life. We wish all the best to Kennedy in her recovery."
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