No criminal charges will be filed in 2012 Cherokee Lake boating fatality

Jeff Bobo • Jun 4, 2013 at 10:58 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County grand jury issued a finding Monday that there will be no criminal charges stemming from a 2012 Labor Day boating accident on Cherokee Lake that took the life of a Virginia man.

William Cantrell, 76, of Pound, Va., was killed on Sept. 3, 2012, when two bass boats collided in the Poor Valley Creek area of the lake.

Cantrell’s passenger, Timothy Cantrell, 52, was treated for serious injuries.

The second boat, which was alleged to have caused the accident, was driven by Gary Cooper, 29, of Rogersville. Cooper and his passenger Brandon Lawson, 33, of Rogersville, were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Brandon Lawson is the son of Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, and the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office waived all jurisdiction in the investigation.

Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officer Chad Gann presented evidence to the grand jury Monday from the initial investigation and Cantrell’s autopsy.

The grand jury then issued a finding that William Cantrell “died as a direct result of a boating accident.”

Rogersville attorney Mark Stapleton, who represents Cooper, said Tuesday the accident was a tragedy but not a criminal act.

“On behalf of Robert Cooper, we are glad to see our criminal system in Hawkins County work the way it is supposed to work,” Stapleton said. “The grand jury heard various sorts of evidence, and after considering all of it the determination was made that there will be no criminal prosecution through criminal court. There was a very heavy rain at the time of the accident, and it is believed neither party had great, or even good visibility.

“Mr. Cooper was traveling a little faster than the other party, but that, in and of itself, does not rise to the level of criminal responsibility under these circumstances.”

Stapleton said he believes the grand jury may have also been swayed by the fact that everyone involved had a clean toxicology report.

Stapleton added, “We believe the situation surrounding the weather conditions primarily motivated the grand jury. All four toxicology screens were clean, and it was just another day of fishing for all four of them. It just ended tragically.”

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