Man faces trial in accident that killed woman on wave runner

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A Robinson man accused of killing his female friend after accidentally driving their wave runner over an Edgeworth dam in 2012 acknowledged on Friday that prosecutors have enough evidence against him for the case to go to trial.

Kevin Ludwig, 27, waived his preliminary hearing Friday and faces trial on charges of homicide by watercraft, reckless operation of a watercraft and violating several boating regulations in connection with the May 2012 accident in which both Mr. Ludwig and the young woman he had just begun dating, 24-year-old Melissa Mason, drove Mr. Ludwig’s wave runner over the Dashields Lock and Dam on the Ohio River. Mr. Ludwig disregarded numerous warning signs and buoys, got too close to the edge of the dam, and he and Miss Mason were swept over it, according to a state police criminal complaint.

Mr. Ludwig’s attorney, Francis Rapp Jr., described Mason’s death as an accident. He said his client’s tests came back negative for both controlled substances and alcohol.

“We think it’s a very, very tragic accident,” Mr. Rapp said. “I don’t think there’s culpability.”

Mr. Ludwig, who police say had completed a safe boating course in December 1999, told police after the incident that he had been boating since he was 12 years old and that he is familiar with that portion of the Ohio River, according to the complaint. He told police that at times he and Miss Mason were traveling at high rates of speed on his Sea Doo and that prior to going over the dam he observed several warning signs indicating that they were approaching the dam and needed to turn around, the complaint states.

Mr. Ludwig told police he slowed down and as he started to turn the Sea-Doo around from the dam, he realized it was too late, and he and Miss Mason went over.

Nearby, Jill Nixon and Brian Milligan heard a scream and responded to the area, where fisherman Anthony Prelec, his son and daughter and his daughter’s friend had already spotted Mr. Ludwig’s wave runner bobbing in the water at the base of the dam with Mr. Ludwig and Miss Mason trying to hang onto the craft, according to the complaint.

Mr. Prelec told police he first retrieved Mr. Ludwig, during which time Miss Mason went underwater for about five minutes before resurfacing, the complaint states. He then was able to get Miss Mason into the boat, where Ms. Nixon, a nurse, climbed in and began giving CPR to Miss Mason, according to police.

Mr. Ludwig and Miss Mason were taken to Sewickley Hospital, where Miss Mason was pronounced dead and Mr. Ludwig was treated for minor injuries and released. An autopsy on Miss Mason by the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office ruled her cause of death was drowning and her manner of death was accidental, according to police.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: 412-608-3618 or First Published April 4, 2014 1:49 PM


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