Boat operator to pay restitution of $50K to swimmer

WAILUKU – The operator of an escort powerboat that struck a swimmer during the Maui Channel Swim two years ago has been ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the swimmer, whose right arm was severed in the collision.

Gary Vinge, 62, of Wailuku was ordered not to operate a boat or other watercraft vessel while he is on probation for one year.

The sentence was imposed Thursday after Vinge pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of second-degree negligent injury.

He was charged for a Sept. 3, 2011, collision off Kaanapali Beach.

California resident John Caughlin was nearing the finish line of the 9.7-mile course from Lanai to Kaanapali Beach when he was struck by Vinge’s 28-foot boat “Moray,” according to a pending lawsuit Caughlin filed in 2nd Circuit Court. The now 43-year-old swimmer was in a designated safe zone where boats were supposed to be banned when he was struck, causing amputation of his right arm and part of his left hand and fingers, according to the lawsuit.

During the hearing Thursday in Wailuku District Court, Judge Eric Romanchak followed a plea agreement between the defense and prosecution, ordering no jail and no fine for Vinge because of the agreement that he would pay the restitution.

Deputy Prosecutor Jerrie Sheppard said the prosecution wasn’t seeking jail or fines, with the restitution “as the primary punishment in this case.”

Vinge was ordered to make restitution payments of $700 a month, starting June 20 and continuing each month after that until the restitution is paid or a settlement is reached in the civil case to cover restitution.

Attorney David Cain, representing Vinge, said Caughlin’s lawyer in the civil case said any double payment resulting from a settlement of the case would be returned to Vinge.