Alcohol, Speed Factors in Deadly Boat Crash, Investigators Say

Alcohol and speed are some of the contributing factors in a boating accident that killed two University of Arkansas students Tuesday (May 14), according to investigators with the Grand River Dan Authority.

Rachel Swetnam, of Grove, Okla., and William Lewis “Trey” Varner, III, of Texarkana, Ark., were killed when a 22-foot Cobalt ski boat carrying eight people collided with a large empty houseboat docked in a marina at Arrowhead Yacht Club in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake near Grove, Okla.

The accident happened at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Others in the boat included the driver, John Deselms, of Tulsa, along with Taylor Perry, of Springdale, Eugene DeVerges, Bryce Banham, both of Tulsa, Taylor Reynolds of Plano, Tx., and Chad Scott of Perry, Okla.

Deselms and Perry were transported to Craig General Hospital for treatment. Some of the injured are also students at the University of Arkansas, according to the university.

Swetnam, a Tri Delta sorority member and was set to graduate in Apparel Studies from the University of Arkansas next year.

“Rachel is someone that we`re really going to miss, she`s actually the first person I threw up the Delta with, a really sweet girl, we`re really going to miss her,” said Cassie Murphy, Tri Delta member.

“She was actually going to live in LA this summer and intern up there because she`s a fashion design major,” said Sara, Tri Delta member.

Varner was studying marketing and a fraternity member at Kappa Sigma.

“He could definitely light up a room, just by being with them.  Rachel and him were really good friends,” said Murphy.

Swetnam worked at Riffraff, a Fayetteville boutique. The business posted the following statement on their Facebook page: “The Riffraff family is greatly saddened by the loss of a friend and long term co-worker, Rachel Swetnam, on the evening of May 14th, 2013. Rachel loved working at Riffraff. Her beautiful smile, infectious cheer, and great sense of humor filled our halls daily.

It will be the little things that we’ll remember. The quiet moments, the smiles, the laughter, It will be the memories of these little things that help to push away the pain and bring back the smiles again.

She always has and always will be very near and dear to our hearts. Please respect this time of mourning for all of us here at Riffraff. Our prayers are with Rachel’s family and friends at this time.”

University of Arkansas Dean of Students Danny Pugh also released a statement: “We are shocked and saddened by news that two University of Arkansas students were killed in a boating accident in Oklahoma on Tuesday evening. We are keeping the families and friends of these students in our hearts during this difficult time, and express our deepest condolences. These students will be greatly missed by the U of A community.”

Swetnam also competed as Miss Midtown Tulsa Teen USA in 2010. She won the National American Miss Teen Oklahoma title in June of that year.

Visitation for Swetnam is Saturday at 8:30 a.m. followed by funeral services at 10 a.m. at Christ the King Church, located at 1520 S. Rockford in Tulsa, according to a report from KJRH in Tulsa.

Varner’s family provided the following statement: “Trey Varner was loved by all who knew him.  His beautiful, caring soul made him a selfless and devoted friend, as well as a devoted son and grandson  He and Rachel Swetnam were as close as brother and sister, and their loss is immeasurable.  His host of friends and his family have lost a beautiful and special light in their lives, but it will now shine on all of them from heaven.  The family’s prayers extend to all of those involved and their families.”

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