Boater was drinking before crash that killed neighbor on Otter Tail Lake, charges say

Charles Gramith
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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — A boater accused of causing the death of his neighbor this weekend on Otter Tail Lake had several beers before he crashed into a parked boat at a high rate of speed, criminal charges allege.

Otter Tail County prosecutors filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday, Aug. 25, against Charles Willis Gramith, of Roseville, Minn., in connection to the Saturday, Aug. 22, drowning of 52-year-old Neil Baker of Elysian, Minn. Gramith faces three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

Gramith, 72, was arrested Saturday afternoon after the boat crash near 30529 Minnesota Highway 78 on the northeast side of Otter Tail Lake, which is about 3 miles southwest of the city of Ottertail, Minn.

Baker’s wife said she was helping her husband tie up their boat when she saw Gramith heading toward them, the complaint said. She yelled, “He’s coming in hot,” before Gramith’s boat collided with theirs, according to the complaint.

Boater was drinking before crash that killed neighbor on Otter Tail Lake, charges say


The collision sent Baker and his wife into the lake, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office said. Baker was later found in the water with injuries beyond life-saving measures, according to the criminal complaint. An autopsy report revealed head trauma and lacerations caused instant death.

A sheriff's deputy said he could smell a moderate odor of alcohol coming from Gramith, the complaint said. Gramith said he was on a number of medications, including blood thinners, according to the complaint.

Gramith also told authorities he consumed two beers in the boat and one earlier, the complaint alleged.

A preliminary breath test showed Gramith had a blood alcohol level of 0.051% before he was arrested, the complaint said. The blood-alcohol limit for operating a boat in Minnesota is 0.08%

Two of the felony counts against Gramith allege he was under the influence of an intoxicating substance at the time of the crash. The third count accused him of operating a vehicle in a "grossly negligent manner."

Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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