fb-pixel

Authorities on Wednesday charged a second man in connection with a Boston Harbor accident last month in which a 19-year-old woman lost part of her arm when it was struck by a private boat's propeller, saying he was behind the wheel at the time of her injury.

Alexander Williams, 24, allegedly started the engine on the boat, which was anchored near Spectacle Island, and "negligently moved the boat in the direction of the victim," prosecutors said at his arraignment in Boston Municipal Court. It was the first time authorities had identified Williams as the driver of the vessel at the time of the accident.

Advertisement



He was charged with negligent operation of a boat and with destroying evidence on his phone before police could search it.

The boat's owner, Benjamin Urbelis, has been charged with reckless operation of the boat, named Naut Guilty, and causing serious bodily injury while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol.

Last week, his lawyer said Urbelis, 33, was swimming in the water when the boat's engine started, and two passengers have said he was far from the boat when the woman was injured.

Urbelis, a Charlestown lawyer who specializes in drunken-driving cases, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Urbelis is due in court Friday, when prosecutors will address the charges against him.

The victim, Nicole Berthiaume of Auburn, had jumped off the boat to retrieve a seat cushion that had blown into the water. As she tried to climb back aboard, her arm was caught in the boat's propeller and was severed above the elbow, authorities say.

Williams' lawyer, Joe Serpa, said his client started the engine because Berthiaume was "in a panic" and appeared to be in danger.

"The only qualified operator of that boat jumped off," he said, referring to Urbelis. "Anything that happened after that was a tragic accident."

Advertisement



Prosecutors said Berthiaume was not in danger of drowning when Williams took the wheel.

Authorities allege that Williams, a student at New England Law School, erased text messages from his phone Wednesday morning before handing it over to police investigators, who had come to his Boston apartment building with a search warrant.

A detective noticed the phone was in "restore factory settings mode," and the device's contents were being erased, a police report said.

The report also said that a lawyer for Williams began to yell at him, saying "That is the stupidest thing . . . no, no, no!"

Williams, who had been scheduled to testify Wednesday about the accident before a grand jury, was aware other passengers had their phones searched, and was seeking to destroy evidence, police allege.

Prosecutors said they expect the grand jury to indict Williams by next week. He was ordered held in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Williams was also charged with procuring alcohol for several teenage women who were aboard the boat.

Police said the Naut Guilty was well-stocked with alcohol, and described Urbelis as drunk and belligerent at the scene.

Bail for Urbelis was initially set at $75,000, but was lowered to $10,000 as prosecutors continued to investigate "the full extent of the defendant's operation and control of the boat."


Globe correspondent Aneri Pattani contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm
@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

Advertisement