Civil Settlement Reached In Boat Crash That Killed 2 UA Students

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John Stuart DeSelms

The alleged drunk driver in a deadly boat crash has reached a settlement with the family of a University of Arkansas student who was killed in the wreck, according to court documents.

The parents of 21-year-old Rachel Swetnam in January filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $10,000 in damages against John DeSelms, another UA student. DeSelms was allegedly driving a pleasure boat drunk during the crash that killed two of his classmates, including Swetnam.

The fatal wreck occurred last May on Grand Lake in Delaware County, Oklahoma.

Delaware County District Judge Robert G. Haney dismissed the civil suit with prejudice and struck it from the docket Wednesday after the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement, according to court records.

Despite reaching a civil settlement, DeSelms still faces criminal charges in the case. DeSelms pleaded not guilty last year to manslaughter charges in Delaware County. His next court date is scheduled for July 28, according to court documents.

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.

1 Comment

  • Kuwnda

    Nothing good comes out of using drugs, alcohol, etc. Just a sad and destructive life. So sad, but if you don’t smoke pot and get drunk, then you are not cool.

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