Families of victims from O’Leary boat crash on Lake Joe looking for witnesses 1 year later

Muskoka Post Staff

Aug 24 marked one year since the O’Leary boat crash on Lake Joseph. The families of the victims who died that night are looking for witnesses in Muskoka and have released the following statement.

“Today marks one year since the tragic boat crash on Lake Joseph that killed Susanne Brito and Gary Poltash. One of the boats was owned, and operated by, Kevin O'Leary and Linda O'Leary. When it crashed into the boat that Susanne and Gary were on, Gary was killed instantly, and Susanne was rushed to hospital with critical injures. Susanne later succumbed to those injuries. Over the past year, the Brito and Poltash families have been seeking answers as to what led to their loved ones' deaths.

Both the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Crown Prosecutor have yet to provide documentation, video, breathalyser test results, and the names and addresses of witnesses to the victims. A motion was brought in Ontario Superior Court seeking an order compelling the production of the Crown Brief, and Ontario Provincial Police file which has been opposed and the determination of such is pending.

After the Brito and Poltash families filed multi-million dollar lawsuits in the Ontario Superior Court, the O'Learys issued a claim in Federal Court (T-2049-19) denying any responsibility for the crash that night and seeking to restrict all claims resulting from the crash to $1,000,000 through the Marine Liability Act. That means that even if a jury or judge decides that the victims' claims amount to more than $1,000,000, the O'Leary's argue that their total exposure is capped at $1,000,000. The move to Federal Court also seeks to prevent the Brito and Poltash families from seeking punitive damages against the O'Learys for any alleged conduct that night that may be considered egregious, reckless and deserving of such additional damages.    

The O'Learys have also advanced their own personal injury claim in Federal Court (T-516-20) wherein Kevin O'Leary is seeking "damages for loss of income, and/or other economic loss in amounts yet to be determined but exceeding $2,000,000" and Linda O'Leary is seeking "damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life in the amount of $1,000,000".

The actions of the O'Learys, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Crown Prosecutor over the course of this last year, have forced the Brito and Poltash families to take matters into their own hands. They are asking for the public to come forward with any information about what happened on that heart-breaking night when they lost their loved ones.

"Deaths on Ontario waterways are far too common. We are seeking justice, and for steps to be taken, so that others are not seriously injured or killed. The first step for us, is understanding what happened that night." said Susanne's sister, Paula.

Trauma lawyer, Patrick Brown, from the litigation law firm McLeish Orlando LLP is representing the families' interests in their tragic wrongful death lawsuits.

"As we said when we issued the initial claim in November 2019, for these grieving families, it is about obtaining civil justice so as to prevent these deaths and curtailing reckless and dangerous behaviour from continuing on our lakes. A year after the crash, we are still waiting for answers to many unanswered questions. These delays are further victimizing the families. It is time for full transparency and cooperation from all those involved," said Patrick Brownand Nick Todorovic, counsel for the families.

If anyone has any information about what the O'Learys were doing on the night of August 24, 2019, please contact Maria Folino by e-mail at mfolino@mollp.com or by phone at 416-366-3311 ext. 2334. The Brito and Poltash families are seeking answers and justice for the loss of their loved ones, and to bring awareness to the public to prevent tragedies like this from happening on our waterways again.” Family of the victims told Muskoka Post the “families are seeking answers and justice for the loss of our loved ones.

If anyone has any information about what the O'Learys were doing on that tragic night last Aug 25, please contact Maria Folino. People that my know of someone who has any knowledge of the occurrences of that night is helpful. It‘s so important as this is so prolonged and the families need closure.”

According to federal estimates, 100 people die each year in boating accidents, and many more suffer serious injuries.

According to data from the OPP boating fatalities in Ontario reached an eight-year high with 31 people dying. Alcohol is a factor in about 40% of all boating fatalities, according to the Canadian Safe Boating Council.

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