Boater charged with manslaughter following deadly crash

The crash happened May 22 along the Columbia River

The boat sank after hitting a bridge pylon at a high rate of speed, May 22 2017. (MCSO)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 55-year-old boater is charged with manslaughter following a crash that killed his fellow passenger.

The crash happened May 22 along the Columbia River.

Steven Curtis Schalk and Heidi Knight were ejected and the boat sank after running into a bridge abutment, according to the sheriff’s office.

The driver, Schalk, was pulled from the water by another boater and the passenger, Knight, was found floating face down in the water. Knight later died at the hospital.

One witness told investigators he was sitting outside eating dinner with his family when he heard a load boat race coming upstream. The witness saw the boat going at a “very fast rate of speed.”

Mugshot of Steven Schalk as seen on July 11, 2017. (MCSO)
Mugshot of Steven Schalk as seen on July 11, 2017. (MCSO)

After hearing the crash, the witness got into his boat and found both Schalk and Knight floating in the water. Court documents show Schalk was pulled up first and he then started performing CPR on Knight.

Another witness told investigators he also heard the boat racing up river past him and heard a loud noise that made him think the engine was “blowing up.”

A deputy with impairment testing qualifications responded to the scene and contacted Schalk who seemed to have lethargic movements and bloodshot eyes. The deputy reported he could not smell any alcohol; however, Schalk was overheard making “jokes” about the situation and that his wallet, boat and glasses were at the bottom of the river.

The court documents reveal the deputy reported “that the defendant continued to have a carefree attitude” while being contacted by first responders.

When Schalk  was told Knight had died after going into cardiac arrest, court records show he did not appear to react in any noticeable way.

Schalk also seemed to be bragging about his boat’s speed capabilities while talking with Multnomah County Sheriff deputies.

“[Schalk] talked about the speed capabilities of his boat, having gone 109 [mph] on Lake Havasu and up to 100 mph on the Columbia River,” according to court documents.

Schalk told investigators a wake or whirlpool in the water threw his boat off course while traveling under the bridge at about 30 mph.

“The defendant also wanted to know if he was going to get his boat back or if it would be taken as evidence,” court documents state.

According to jail records, Knight and Schalk had been friends since 2012.

Schalk appeared in court on Tuesday for his arraignment and entered a not guilty plea to all of the charges against him. His next court date is scheduled for August.