Parents Of U Of A Student Killed In Boat Crash Sue Driver

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The parents of a 21-year-old University of Arkansas student killed in a boat crash last year at a marina on Grand Lake in Oklahoma have filed a civil lawsuit against her fellow student who was driving the boat.

Jeffery Swetnam and Janet Swetnam, the parents of Rachel Swetnam, a former Miss Teen Oklahoma, sued John DeSelms and other defendants in Delaware County District Court. The suit was filed Jan. 22.

DeSelms, the University of Arkansas student who drove the boat in a crash that killed two of his classmates, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges last year in Delaware County, according to court records.

DeSelms’ next court date on those charges is scheduled for July 28.

Rachel Swetnam was killed by accidental blunt force trauma to the head and neck,while William “Trey” Varner III died of accidental blunt force trauma to the head, according the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.

The Delaware County District Attorney filed two manslaughter charges against DeSelms in September in connection with the fatal crash after the suspect allegedly admitted to drinking heavily and taking drugs prior to the wreck.

After charges were filed in September concerning the May boat crash, DeSelms was booked into jail in Delaware County and bonded out the next morning. Each manslaughter charge is punishable by imprisonment for four years to life, a fine or up to $10,000 or both.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol released an investigation report about a week after the May 14 deadly boat crash. The report states John DeSelms was arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol after the 22-foot-long ski boat he was driving smashed into a docked, unoccupied houseboat at a marina on Grand Lake in Oklahoma.

While being treated at a nearby hospital, DeSelms told investigators he had consumed about 10 beers, one shot of tequila and an anti-depressant that was not prescribed to him before the crash. He also admitted to using marijuana two days earlier, according to the investigation report.


  • Opinion

    The parents need to do whatever they need to do to gain closure. If a lawsuit helps, then by all means do so.

  • Seriously?

    Did they do toxoligy test on the two deceased? I’m sure they were drinking as well. This young lady CHOSE to get in the boat knowing that there was alcohol. These parents aren’t out for closure, they’re out to blame someone for their daughters negligence and to gain some money while doing so.

  • Tom Hoford

    Getting in a boat or car with a known drunk driver can be deadly. These kids were partying, had to know he was drunk. The blame falls on him for driving but would he have acted this way, would they have died had they not been in the boat.

    Many times peer pressure plays a part as we all know. What the driver did was wrong, in hindsight the deceased getting or staying in that boat was a guilty and deadly choice. mens rea

    I know someone very close that had a similar accident 20 years ago. He lived but never recovered. The family moved on as much as possible. Today he still lives with the nightmare of causing the loss his best friend and the damage it did to the family.

  • boat at your own risk

    The driver went over the line when he mixed beer with Xanax, which is very sedative drug. Plus I think he forgot boats don’t have breaks like a car. I would have stayed away from this person because it was a accident waiting to happen. Must use better judgement or end up dead.

  • Jim

    Bottom line is that the driver of the vehicle whether boat, bike, truck or car is responsible for the passengers.

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