Canadian millionaire and reality TV star Kevin O'Leary is under scrutiny after a fatal boat collision claimed the lives of two people in Ontario's cottage country over the weekend. Statements made by O'Leary—particularly that the other boat "fled the scene"—have been contradicted or in conflict with what police have said.
On Saturday, at around 11:30 p.m. on Lake Joseph in Muskoka, O'Leary, his wife Linda, and an unnamed third person were on a boat when it reportedly crashed into a larger, 13-person boat, killing two on that vessel.
Gary Poltash, a 64-year-old father of two from Florida, died on the scene. Susanne Brito, a 48-year-old mother of three from Uxbridge, Ont., was seriously injured and died in hospital on Wednesday. She was reportedly kept alive so that her organs could be donated.
O'Leary initially declined to comment on the incident. But after TMZ reported about the incident on Tuesday, O'Leary issued a statement saying, "On Saturday night, I was a passenger in a boat that was involved in a tragic collision with another watercraft that had no navigation lights on and then fled the scene."
Critics say O'Leary's wording, suggesting the other boat "fled the scene," isn't accurate.
West Parry Sound OPP Constable Joe Scali said, "Both boats did leave the scene… to contact emergency services. Ambulance received 911 calls from parties of both boats."
Also under scrutiny is O'Leary's claim that the larger boat didn't have navigation lights on. An OPP spokesperson said they "are not commenting on specifics in relation to equipment, direction, and such in order to protect the integrity of the investigation."
Sources connected to the larger boat told TMZ that navigation lights on the larger boat were on at the time of the crash.
According to an O'Leary family spokesperson, Linda was driving the boat at the time of the collision. Police gave her a drug and alcohol test to gauge her sobriety, which she passed, the spokesperson said. According to the Toronto Sun, a family member of one of the victims has questioned how much time had elapsed between the collision and her impairment test.
Linda has since changed the setting on her Instagram account to private. Kevin O'Leary's Instagram remains public, though he has turned off public comments for some posts.
O'Leary, 65, is perhaps best-known for his combative persona on the Canadian reality TV show Dragons’ Den, as well as his recurring role on the American hit TV show Shark Tank. He has courted controversy throughout his career in business, tech, politics, and media, including an ill-fated run for leadership of the Conservative Party. (Full disclosure, I have worked with Kevin for years, on his show The Lang and O’Leary Exchange at the CBC).
The incident happened near O'Leary's palatial cottage in Muskoka, Ont. In a recent interview, he said, "What this place costs me to maintain per year is just stupid."
In his official statement, O'Leary said he is fully cooperating with authorities. Police have not laid any charges in the case.
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