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Vancouver man gets 3 years in jet-ski crash that killed a woman near the Vancouver waterfront

By , Columbian staff reporter

A Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison in connection with an October 2022 fatal jet ski crash near the Vancouver waterfront.

Stephen A. Lubeck, 31, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to homicide by watercraft with disregard for the safety of others.

The Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Fire Department, Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Coast Guard marine units responded at about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9, 2022, to the west waterfront area, near the Grant Street Pier, for a report of a boating collision.

Lubeck was riding a jet ski south, and a 39-year-old woman, identified as Kira D. Donovan, was riding a jet ski west on the Columbia River when they collided. The two did not know each other, according to a police news release.

The woman was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where she died from her injuries, court records state.

Both the prosecutor and defense attorney noted Wednesday darkness was a major factor in the crash and that neither Lubeck nor Donovan had lights on.

Investigators determined both Lubeck and Donovan were causes of the crash; they found that in addition to Lubeck measuring a blood-alcohol content of 0.091 during a preliminary breath test, Donovan’s blood showed high levels of methamphetamine, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving. Lubeck’s blood was sent to the state crime lab for toxicology testing, which Gasperino said confirmed his intoxication.

Gasperino said that in the beginning of the case, Donovan’s husband said he did not want Lubeck to spend a lot of time in prison, and he felt the crash was more of an accident.

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Donovan’s son told Judge Suzan Clark resolving this case a year later has caused him to relive the pain of losing his mother.

Lubeck expressed condolences to Donovan’s family and said he hopes they can one day accept his apology.

The judge called the case frustrating, saying she also spends time boating in that area. She told Lubeck she hoped he recognized his responsibility in the crash.

According to a probable cause affidavit, a witness, Daniel Bratkov, told police he was wake surfing behind a boat when he saw a man on a jet ski “flying by.” About two minutes later, he saw people flashing their phones toward the boat to get their attention. The boat pulled up to a jet ski, and the rider, Lubeck, said a woman had hit his jet ski; he asked for a ride on the boat.

Bratkov said his boat began looking for the other jet skier. They located a life jacket and a woman face down in the water. Bratkov’s boat and people on another boat pulled the woman from the water, and a doctor on the other boat started CPR, the affidavit states.

Responding police found Lubeck on a boat dock on the north side of the Columbia River, west of the Interstate 5 Bridge. He said he injured his right hand and left ankle in the crash. He declined medical aid, court records say.

Lubeck told police the woman crashed into him when he turned around near the pier. He said he was doing “donuts” in the water before heading back to Portland, the affidavit states.

Officers noted Lubeck’s speech was slurred, his eyes were red and watery, and there was a strong odor of intoxicants on his breath. Lubeck said he had started drinking around noon at Lemon Island in the Columbia River and had three or four Coors Light beers about an hour before riding the jet ski, according to the affidavit.