As Alexander West's trial reached its second week, 10 witnesses took the stand Monday. The Lake George man is accused of being drunk and high on drugs when his boat crashed into another vessel last July, leaving a young girl dead and her mother severely hurt. Matt Hunter has more on the testimony of the victim’s mother.
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – Courtney McCue spent less time on the stand than most of the other nine witnesses appearing at Alexander West’s trial on Monday, but her testimony was undoubtedly the most emotional.
Last summer on Lake George, the 39-year-old California woman was left severely injured in a boat crash that also claimed the life of her eight-year-old daughter, Charlotte.
At several points through her brief testimony, McCue grew emotional discussing the moments before, during and after the crash off Kramer Point that prosecutors allege was caused by West after a day of drinking and doing drugs at the lake’s annual Log Bay Day celebration.
McCue testified Charlotte was sleeping in her lap at around 8:30 the night of July 25 when she says her family's boat was hit by another, testifying, "I looked up and saw another boat flying through the air."
With the boat driven by her father, Robert Knarr, McCue was riding with her husband, three children and stepmother. Saying she was in a state of shock, McCue testified the impact knocked her to her knees.
"Oh my god, oh my god, I'm hurt, I'm really hurt," McCue said she yelled out.
Arguably the most emotional point of her testimony came when she described the moments after arriving back at the family's boathouse, where lights revealed the extent of her own and Charlotte's injuries.
"I looked to my left and Charlotte wasn't responding; she was really hurt," McCue said, pausing midway through.
Jurors were shown several photos taken at Glens Falls Hospital in the days after the crash, documenting McCue’s injuries. Along with deep lacerations caused by the propeller on West’s boat, McCue said she suffered a fractured spine.
The afternoon brought the testimony of several members of the New York State Police’s forensics investigation team. The last member of law enforcement to testify Monday was Jason Cooper, who works for the agency’s multi-media and video unit. He testified about video that was obtained from a nearby homeowner’s dock camera that shows parts of the crash from a distance.
Jurors saw three different renderings of the dark and somewhat grainy footage, first at the standard view and then zoomed in by 200 and 300 times. Moving left to right across the screen, the video first shows one light, or boat, moving south on the lake. Not long after, a second, faster-moving light comes from what appears to be the same direction, before it catches up to and hits the first light, before both start to shake.
While it's quite difficult to tell which angle the two boats struck at, the fact that they appeared to come from the same direction could help prosecutors convince jurors that West's boat hit the McCue and Knarr family's boat from behind. West's attorney, Cheryl Coleman, maintains he had the right of way and hit the other boat from a "criss-cross" angle.
"We think it backs up what we are trying to show about the dynamics of the accident,” Coleman told reporters after Monday’s proceedings wrapped up. “Right of way isn't solely about angle, but that is part of it. It's just all too complicated to really address in this kind of forum right now."
The day's final witness was Matthew Peterson, a friend of West's, who says West picked him and two other friends up on his boat and brought them to Log Bay Day on the morning of July 25. He says after a day of drinking on the lake, they had dinner as a group and saw Alex West drink two Moscow mule drinks during the meal.
During cross examination, he acknowledged he did not witness West smoke marijuana or take any other drugs that day. He also could not recall how many beers West drank.
Testimony continues Tuesday morning at 10.