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20-month sentence for deadly boating accident

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A man who survived a boating accident near The Forks that claimed the life of a childhood friend was given a 20-month jail sentence today.

Johnny Petriew, 37, was sentenced this afternoon after a plea bargain saw him enter a guilty plea to a single charge of dangerous operation of a vessel for the May 2011 tragedy.

Petriew and David Morris were in a 12-foot aluminum boat on the Assiniboine River that was swollen and had fast currents as a result of that spring’s flood. Authorities had banned boating on all Winnipeg rivers at the time.

Witnesses said the boat was moving erratically in the river before it capsized. Petriew managed to cling to drift wood and was pulled to shore. Morris, 37, was swept along into the Red River and drowned.

Petriew was originally charged with impaired operation of a vessel causing death and refusing a breath demand. Those charges were reduced at a preliminary hearing but later re-instated in Queen’s Bench. The Crown’s office ultimately accepted a plea bargain on the lesser charge.

Petriew admitted to police that he had had four beers throughout the day.

Justice Joan McKelvey said there was no definitive link between Petriew’s drinking and the incident and Morris’ death could not be linked to Petriew’s drinking.

McKelvey noted that Petriew has an extensive criminal record: 29 convictions, including six for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail in March 2010 after pleading guilty to several drinking and driving offences and was still prohibited from drinking alcohol when the May 2011 tragedy occurred.

Petriew was living in a rehabilitation facility after he pleaded guilty in December but was thrown out a month later for breaching a facility regulation and then sent back to Milner Ridge.

McKelvey sentenced Petriew to 18 months for the dangerous operation charge and two additional months for a charge of breaching a recognizance. But McKelvey also gave Petriew credit for the 19 months he had served in custody since his arrest, leaving him with an additional one month to serve.

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