Congressman Denny Rehberg spoke to members of the Montana press this morning for the first time since the boat crash two weeks ago that left him and four others seriously injured.
Rehberg talked for almost an hour about the events surrounding the crash.
You can download a Windows Media audio file of the complete conference call here.
Rehberg told reporters that he didn’t have any reason to believe that Kalispell Sen. Greg Barkus, the driver of the boat, was impaired when he got behind the wheel and attempted to drive Rehberg and his two staffers back to their hotel on the other side of the lake.
“It would be like me talking to you right now,” Rehberg said. “I have no idea what anybody else felt. We can go through and second guess ourselves forever on this thing, but as far as I could tell I saw no signs of impairment at all. None.”
Rehberg said he had one glass of Kettlehouse Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and part of another while meeting with dinner guests at an evening get-together in Lakeside, but he said he did not observe Barkus drinking alcohol at any point that evening.
“I could not honestly tell you whether he had a drink or not.”
He said Barkus’ wife, Kathy, had small cooler on the boat that contained 12 ounces or less of margarita.
“When we first got in the boat, Kathy had a little cooler of about, oh it looked like 12 oz. or less of margarita. That was the extent of what I know was on the boat. I’m not aware of anything else.”
Rehberg said Barkus was using a GPS device to navigate across the lake to the Marina Cay Resort on Bigfork Bay. Rehberg said he recalls Barkus indicating that something “doesn’t seem right,” shortly before boat struck the rocks.
Rehberg said he didn’t think that Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan’s assertion that the boat was traveling at a speed of about 40 mph when it crashed on the rocks was correct.
“I’m no judge, because I was not paying attention and there’s nothing really to gauge it by, but to me, I’ve water skied, and I’ve water skied at 30-40 miles mph, and I wouldn’t suggest this was water skiing speed,” Rehberg said. “It’d have been a lot colder, your hair would have been flipping around a lot more.”
I’ll have more on Rehberg’s press conference in tomorrow’s Great Falls Tribune.