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Man Arrested in Fatal Crash on Colorado River

The boat company owner surrenders after the accident that killed three young adults.

September 22, 2003|Christine Hanley and H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writers

A high-speed collision between two speedboats on the Colorado River left three Orange County young adults in one of the boats dead, a fourth in critical condition, and the Los Angeles County driver of the other speedboat jailed Sunday night on a felony hit-and-run charge.

Grier D. Rush, who owns a boat company in Maywood, surrendered to authorities in Arizona as the news spread through the Laguna Hills and Mission Viejo communities where the victims lived.

Rush, accompanied by his lawyer, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal boat collision, said Sgt. Steve Bennett of the La Paz County Sheriff's Department. He was being held in county jail in lieu of $1-million bail, pending a court appearance at the La Paz County Justice Center in Parker, Ariz., Bennett said.

The accident took place about 6:30 p.m. Friday near Rio Lindo Shores, an area where the Colorado River separates California and Arizona near the border city of Parker, about 30 miles south of Lake Havasu.

The occupants of both boats were attending a weekend power boat event staged at the Red Rock campground, according to deputies.

Sheriff's officials said they had confiscated both boats and were investigating the collision. They provided no details about the accident and did not say who was at fault.

They said Rush, 62, was at the wheel of one of his Rush Performance boats, with two companions on board, when he crossed paths with a Sanger jet boat carrying the four Orange County youths.

Jonathan Herbert, 21, of Laguna Hills was driving the Sanger, a pickle-fork, jet-driven craft common on the Colorado River. His sister, Jacquel Herbert, her boyfriend, Josh Rogers, and Ashley Rollins, all 18, were passengers. Rogers and Rollins are from Mission Viejo.

Herbert's boat split in half on impact and then sank, according to Capt. Rich Gilbank of the Buckskin Fire Department. Rescuers pulled Jacquel Herbert, Rollins and Rogers out of the water immediately. They were taken to La Paz Regional Hospital, where the two women were pronounced dead. Rogers was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, where he was in critical condition Sunday. Jonathan Herbert's body was recovered later by divers.

Rush, and his passengers, Don Kramer, 52, of Norco, and Steve Shoop, 44, of Minnesota, were not injured. Sheriff's deputies had obtained a warrant for Rush's arrest after they said he left the scene and fled to California. He returned after he learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

On Sunday, Rush's family described the accident as a tragedy for everyone involved.

"This was a terrible thing that happened," said a man who said he was related to Rush by marriage and was answering the phone at the Rush residence in Maywood. "His [Rush's] family wishes to offer our sincere condolences to everyone involved."

In the Laguna Hills neighborhood where the Herberts lived, friends and schoolmates gathered outside their home, praying and lighting candles at a makeshift memorial.

They described the Herberts as an extremely tight-knit family that did everything together. Jonathan and Jacquel were the only children. They spent many weekends together boating on the river.

Jonathan Herbert was like a big brother, said Scott Marks, 18, of Laguna Hills. Herbert worked at a motorcycle shop in town and enjoyed racing his dirt bike in the desert as much as he liked to race his boat on the river, Marks said.

"He was always the first one to 'go big,' " Marks recalled, referring to the way Herbert rode his dirt bike. "On the jumps, he'd go higher and faster than anyone else."

Jacquel, who graduated from Laguna Hills High School in June, had just started dating Rogers and was thinking of joining the Navy, her friends said. "She was a professional smiling face," said Megan Knight, who knew Jacquel since junior high. "She made everyone happy."

Courtney McCraney, who also graduated with Jacquel, recalled how supportive she was when McCraney's father died three years ago.

"She was a major support system for me. She was always there for me to cry on her shoulder, and always tried to make me feel better," McCraney said.

Jacquel and her mother were said to be close friends, and she idolized her older brother.

"I love you mother, dad, Jonathan," Jacquel wrote under her senior yearbook picture.

Her family returned the favor in a quarter-page ad in the back: "Jacquel Herbert. Our family was complete when you were born. Keep your inquisitiveness asking those endless questions. Work hard -- Play harder!" And always stay as happy as your namesake (Joy) implies."

Times staff writers Tom Gorman and Claire Luna contributed to this report.

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