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Sept. 29, 2003
CONTACT: Karen Parker (386) 758-0525

The investigation of the boating accident that claimed one man’s life has been completed, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials.

Richard Drew Combee, 20, Live Oak, was killed in the accident that occurred July 22 on the Suwannee River approximately 200 yards upstream from 90th Street in Gilchrist County.

According to FWC Investigator Neil Martin, charges have been filed against Mathew J. Alford, 18, Live Oak, the operator of the vessel. These charges include boating under the influence (BUI) manslaughter; false report to a law enforcement officer; possession of alcoholic beverages by persons under the age of 21; tampering with evidence; witness harassment; and, witness tampering.

Martin said, “The vessel, a 20-foot Monterey, was traveling upstream at approximately 35-40 miles per hour. The boat made a sudden course change, causing the vessel to swing around sharply. Combee was ejected from the vessel.”

The boat stopped suddenly, throwing the other occupants of the vessel -- Alford, Kendra L. Colvin, 18, Robert C. Thon, 20, both from Live Oak, and a juvenile from Valdosta, Ga. -- to the vessel’s deck.

“Attempts by the vessel’s occupants to locate Combee were unsuccessful. Alcohol was a factor in the accident,” Martin explained.

When the responding FWC officer arrived at the scene, Thon was identified as the operator. He was given a field sobriety test and it was determined that he was not under the influence.

Martin found no evidence on the exterior of the hull of that boat that would indicate any impact with any objects.

Combee was found July 24 approximately 700 yards downstream from the accident scene. He had sustained massive trauma to his head. The cause of death was determined to be from drowning.

“After the initial investigation, formal interviews were conducted with Thon, Colvin and the juvenile who identified Alford as the operator,” the FWC investigator said.

Investigators were never given access to interview Alford.

Charges on Alford were filed Sept 25 by the state attorney’s office in Live Oak.





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