A young school teacher was killed and two others injured when a 21-foot sailboat moving slowly under power on a late evening cruise was struck by a powerboat about 10:30 pm Wednesday in Lake Washington, near Seattle’s east shore. Authorities said the young woman suffered massive internal injuries caused by blunt-force injury to her head and torso.
Police arrested the operator of the power boat for investigation of homicide by motor craft and he was being held on $500,000 bail. Formal charges are expected to be filed today, when the man is scheduled to appear in court.
The man operating the powerboat was identified as Richard Anthony Hicks, 46, a real estate agent in Renton, a Seattle suburb at the south end of Lake Washington. He was a former University of Washington football player. Police said he was operating the boat, "at a reckless speed and under the influence of alcohol." The King County prosecutor's office, in a statement, said witnesses reported that Hicks' boat was going, "almost as fast as a Jet Ski going as fast as it could," and that they heard screams and the sound of crunching boats.
Details are vague, partly because the mishap occurred in the dark. Sources said the sailboat, with seven persons aboard, was operating under power at a speed of about one knot. Passengers told police they heard a power boat running at a high speed just before the collision.
Melissa Protz, 33, who taught middle school science, and two other sailboat passengers, were thrown overboard. Rescuers administered CPR, but Protz did not respond. Officials have not said if her death was the direct result of the collision, from drowning or exposure. One other sail boat passenger was admitted to a hospital for treatment and was reported to be in serious condition. A third was treated and released.
Four persons were aboard the powerboat. None were injured.
The motorboat operator called 911 to report the collision. A Seattle police officer who interviewed the operator noted an odor of alcohol on his breath and that his speech was slurred. The operator said he and his family were heading home after dinner at a Seattle restaurant. He was arrested at the scene and jailed for investigation of homicide.
Crew on another boat helped the persons thrown into the water and towed the damaged sailboat to a dock, where police began an investigation.
A native of Wisconsin, Protz (below) attended the University of Wisconsin and college in Australia before received her teaching degree from Seattle University. Her father, John Protz, told the Seattle Times “she loved the kids, she loved teaching, she loved the subject matter.”