ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A 55-year-old Crownsville man was sentenced in a boating death of 76-year-old George Jaeger Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to both manslaughter and driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Thomas Coale Sr. was sentenced to 10 years in jail with all but 18 months suspended. He also must have supervised probation and drug and alcohol treatment.READ MORE: 'Heavy Police Presence,' Including SWAT Teams, Reported In West Baltimore; Multiple Roads Closed For About 40 Minutes
Coale and Jaeger were at Buffalo Wild Wings on May 6, 2019 have lunch and drinks, prosecutors said. Coale asked Jaeger if he wanted to go with him to check on his boat at Liberty Marina in Edgewater and go on a short ride.
Surveillance video showed the two men leaving in Coale’s boat around 4:50 p.m. Thirty five minutes later, Coale returned alone to the marina. He was seen on video sitting on his boat for 36 minutes doing something to the center console with a book in his hand, before leaving his boat and driving out of the marina.
When he returned to the marina seven minutes later, he called 911 around 6:15 p.m. from the parking lot to report a friend fell into the water and drowned.
When Anne Arundel County Police officers responded to the marina, they saw Coale was extremely intoxicated. He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center for a blood kit after he failed field sobriety tests.
Coale told police he put the boat in neutral so Jaeger could urinate off the back of the boat. Coale went to the front of the boat to give him privacy. He heard Jaeger say “Tom” but didn’t see him. He told police he tried to help him and even jumped into the water, but that Jaeger was unconscious and “died in his arms.”
While Coale was seen sitting on his boat back at the marina, a 911 call came in by a boater saying there was a body floating in South River. Crews recovered Jaeger and he was found to have a weak pulse. They started CPR, but the man was pronounced dead by 6:13 p.m. A bag of cocaine was also found on Jaeger. Jaeger had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and tested positive for cocaine and diazepam (valium).READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Mostly Sunny & Warm
The medical examiner determined he drowned and the manner of death was an accident.
There was no safety equipment on the boat.
Coale had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.11 and had cocaine in his system, a blood test proved. A Coast Guard investigator found that the GPS on Coale’s boat has no track data, which means it had to have been deleted since it’s in auto record mode for tracking. Prosecutors believe Coale deleted the GPS when he returned to the marina but before calling the police.
“The callous actions of the defendant contributed to the death of Mr. Jaeger as the evidence showed that after the victim fell off Mr. Coale’s boat into the water, the defendant failed to seek help by calling 911, and then left Mr. Jaeger in peril of drowning,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “Under the Maryland Criminal Code, Coale was charged with criminal manslaughter and then separately for manslaughter by vessel as well as driving his vehicle while impaired under the transportation code.”
“The facts in this case showed that he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the grossly negligent act of failing to seek help on the victim’s behalf, leaving him in the water to drown and then only calling authorities long after he returned to shore and left the area,” Leitess added. “The police found Jaeger with a weak pulse, so he was still alive when Coale abandoned him.”
“While the State could not prove the defendant was intoxicated while operating his boat at the time of the accident or that was the cause of Jaeger’s death, we could prove he knowingly abandoned his friend and was intoxicated when he operated his truck after leaving the marina and returning,” she added. “I am grateful for the excellent investigation the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted in this matter. I extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Jaeger during this challenging time.”
Coale was taken into custody at his plea hearing on April 16 as he has not served any pre-trial jail time. He will serve his sentence at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center.MORE NEWS: Crime Without Punishment: Homicide Clearance Rates Are Declining Across The US. Baltimore's Is Down To 42%