A New Jersey yacht captain accused of causing a fatal collision off the coast of Rhode Island has pleaded guilty.
The Providence Journal reports 79-year-old Cooper Bacon, of Cape May, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Providence to seaman’s manslaughter in the death of 81-year-old Walter Krupinski, of Norfolk, Connecticut.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 17.
Prosecutors say Bacon wasn’t paying attention when he crashed into Krupinski’s 23-foot Steiger center console fishing boat in 2015, killing him. Krupinski, who died of blunt force injuries sustained in the crash, was heading back to port after fishing.
Bacon was piloting the 60-foot yacht from Newport to a boat show in Stamford, Connecticut at the time of the crash.
The yacht captain was previously found guilty in 2017 for violating three navigation rules. Each violation carries a maximum $100 fine.
During the 2017 trial, a Coast Guard official testified that Bacon’s yacht was moving at 25 to 31 knots and had auto-navigation engaged just prior to the crash. And a 911 call revealed that Bacon, a licensed captain, expected Krupinski to turn his vessel.
A police officer testified that it was the worse damage he’s ever seen in a boat collision, adding that Bacon’s yacht “essentially rode over” Krupinski’s boat.
An investigation released by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management in 2016 found that Bacon’s negligence lead to Krupinski’s death. The agency, which also found that weather or visibility were not factors, said that Bacon’s actions were not reckless.
In issuing his trial decision, the judge found that the testimony presented at the trail “clearly” showed that if had Bacon had a lookout or taken measures to avoid the collision, “[the crash] would have not occurred.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.