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Houseboat Owner Charged in Lake Death of 4-Year-Old

Jason Stuart Bernal faces up to 2 years in jail
By Josh Rosenblatt,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2017 4:44 PM CDT
Houseboat Owner Charged in Lake Death of 4-Year-Old
Booking photo of Jason Stuart Bernal   (Bell County Jail)

Tragedy struck in central Texas on Friday when a 4-year-old girl was hit and killed by a houseboat while swimming in a public lake. KVUE reports Kaitlyn Oliver was swimming in Belton Lake at Temple Lake Park around 6:45pm when Jason Stuart Bernal backed up his boat, catching Kaitlyn in its propeller in the process. Patrick Oliver attempted to save his daughter but he too got caught in the propeller. Kaitlyn was pronounced dead an hour later, and her father has had to undergo two surgeries to amputate his legs. KXAN reported Sunday that doctors didn't yet know if they saved enough of his legs to allow for prosthetic limbs. Bernal was on Sunday charged with criminally negligent homicide following his arrest on Saturday.

The charge is punishable by up to two years in state jail. Temple Police say they are still investigating the case and that other charges could be forthcoming. KXAN cites an arrest affidavit that says witnesses alerted Bernal to the presence of children in the water and implored him to stop driving; Bernal allegedly told police he didn't see anyone near the boat. The family of the victims has set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical and funeral expenses, with the fundraiser noting that Patrick Oliver was between jobs at the time of the accident and currently does not have health insurance. At the time of this writing, $36,000 had been raised. (Read more Texas stories.)

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