Renton man held in death of teacher in powerboat crash
A Renton real-estate agent accused of causing a boat collision that killed a North Seattle schoolteacher was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Passengers on a sailboat told police they were slowly motoring with a low-power trolling motor after dark when a powerboat slammed into them Wednesday night on Lake Washington, according to a statement of probable cause released Friday by the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Witnesses, in the statement, described hearing the sound of crunching boats and screams as Melissa Protz, a Seattle middle-school teacher, was killed and two other sailboat passengers were injured.
The man operating the powerboat, Richard Anthony Hicks, 46, a Renton real-estate agent and former University of Washington football player, told officers he and his family were heading home when the collision occurred near Leschi around 10:30 p.m.
On Friday, King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman found probable cause to hold Hicks in jail on one count of investigation of homicide by watercraft and two counts of assault by watercraft.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ian Ith said Hicks “poses an extreme danger to the community” as he successfully argued that Hicks remain in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Police, in their investigation, said Hicks “was driving the motorboat at a reckless speed, and under the influence of alcohol.”
“Hicks should have known not to operate the motorboat at that high rate of speed since there would more than likely be more sail and motorboats on the water due to the nice weather,” police wrote in the affidavit of probable cause released by prosecutors on Friday.
According to the probable-cause statement, Seattle police said they could smell alcohol on Hicks’ breath after the accident. Officers said his eyes were red, bloodshot and watery and his speech was slurred, according to the affidavit.
William Kirk, Hicks’ lawyer, said after Friday’s court hearing that his client is “obviously devastated with what occurred.”
Hicks told police that he and his family had been out to dinner at Chandler’s Crabhouse and were on their way home when the collision occurred, the affidavit said.
Witnesses who helped tow the sailboat to shore told police they saw the powerboat traveling “almost as fast as a Jet Ski going as fast as it could go,” the probable-cause statement said.
Passengers on the sailboat told police they were trying to get back to shore when the collision occurred. They said there was no wind, so they were using a small motor to propel the vessel, the statement said.
Protz, 33, died at the scene. An autopsy determined she suffered massive internal injuries caused by blunt-force injury to her head and torso.
The other two sailboat passengers were hospitalized. Only one, a man, remains at Harborview Medical Center.
Protz taught science at Assumption-St. Bridget School in the Bryant neighborhood.
None of the four people who were on the powerboat fell into the water, according to reports.
A blood draw was taken from Hicks after his arrest to determine possible intoxication, police said. Results are pending.
Ith, in court Friday, said Hicks has a history of drinking and driving, as well as reckless driving.
In 2002, Hicks was arrested for investigation of DUI and reckless driving in King County. When evidence of the level of alcohol content in his system was suppressed in court, prosecutors amended his charge to reckless driving, according to documents filed in King County District Court. Hicks pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail, with all the time suspended.