A member of a prominent Land O’ Lakes family faces a boating-under-the-influence manslaughter charge after a Labor Day weekend boating collision resulted in the death of his younger brother.
Jeffrey Griffin Jr., 31, was arrested Wednesday in the Sept. 2 death of 29-year-old Joshua Griffin, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Pasco County Commission last year.
Both are sons of rancher and Republican supporter Jeffrey Griffin Sr., who founded the Pasco environmental consulting company Bio Tech Mass.
Griffin Jr. was operating his 23-foot Boston Whaler boat the night of Sept. 1 on the Pithlachascotee River near the Gulf of Mexico, investigators said. On board were his brother, Joshua, and a friend, 25-year-old Denelle Walicke, investigators said.
At 11:41 p.m., the starboard side of the vessel struck a channel marker, throwing Joshua Griffin into the water, according to a criminal complaint affidavit. Walicke told investigators she blacked out on impact, and when she came to she saw Griffin Jr. trying to get his brother out of the water.
Joshua Griffin was declared dead by emergency workers onshore. A medical examiner later determined he died of blunt force trauma, according to the affidavit.
A blood draw was done on Griffin Jr. about three hours after the wreck, and he was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .093, according to the affidavit. A vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence at or above 0.08.
Griffin Jr., of 15212 State Road 52, was arrested by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on a charge of boating under the influence with manslaughter. He was booked at the Land O’ Lakes Jail and later released on $10,000 bail.
The more than five months that elapsed between the accident and Griffin’s arrest is not unusual, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the commission.
“Boating accidents typically take this long, particularly when there’s a fatality,” Morse said.
The investigation of a boating accident with injuries, but no fatalities, can take six to eight weeks, he said, and a fatality almost always makes the investigation take much longer.
“Unlike an automobile accident, which has skid marks and other telltale signs, boating accidents are much more difficult to investigate,” Morse said.
In 2012, Joshua Griffin ran in the Republican primary for Pasco County Commission, losing to Kathryn Starkey, who eventually claimed the seat in the general election.
A man answering the phone at Jeffrey Griffin’s home said the family would have no comment.