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Civil lawsuit settlement in fatal boat crash on Grand Lake - KOAM TV 7

Civil lawsuit settlement in fatal boat crash on Grand Lake

John Deselms John Deselms
Nicole Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Arkansas.  Photo from Rachel Swetnam's Facebook page. Nicole Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Arkansas. Photo from Rachel Swetnam's Facebook page.
Image courtesy Tulsa CBS affiliate KOTV Image courtesy Tulsa CBS affiliate KOTV
Updated May 1, 2014:  A Tulsa family has settled for an undisclosed amount in the wrongful death lawsuit in connection to a boating crash that killed two people on Grand Lake in May 2013.

John DeSelms, of Tulsa, was driving the pleasure boat that slammed into a docked houseboat, killing two passengers of his own boat:  Nicole Swetnam, 21 of Grove, Oklahoma, and Trey Varner of Arkansas.  Swetnam was a former Miss Teen Oklahoma.

Investigators say excessive speed, alcohol and operator inattention are to blame for the crash.

The victims attorney says the proceeds will be split evenly among the two families.

DeSelms is charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter.  He was released on $25,000 bond.


Updated January 31, 2014:  Excessive speed, alcohol and operator inattention have been blamed for boat crash on Grand Lake that killed two people in May 2013 - one, a former Miss Teen Oklahoma.  Now, one of the families has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man charged in the fatal crash.

Two University of Arkansas students who were riding in the front of the pleasure boat were killed.  They were both 21-years-old - Nicole Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Arkansas.


John Deselms of Tulsa has been charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter in that case.   He was released on $25,000 bond.


Swetnam's family has filed a lawsuit against Delsem, his parents and a company owned by their family.


Updated September 10, 2013:  A police report blamed excessive speed, alcohol and operator inattention for a fatal boat crash, and now a suspect is charged.

The crash happened back in May on Grand Lake when a pleasure boat slammed into a docked houseboat.

Two University of Arkansas students who were riding in the front of the pleasure boat were killed.  They were both 21-years-old - Nicole Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Arkansas.

John Deselms of Tulsa has been charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter in that case.

Investigators say he was the boat driver and that he had been drinking heavily.

Deselms is currently free on a $25,000 bond

Updated May 23, 2013 at 12:05 PM CST:  Speed, alcohol and driver inattention are being cited as factors in a fatal boat collision on Grand Lake earlier this month.

Two University of Arkansas students when the ski boat they were riding in crashed into an empty houseboat docked in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake.  The students killed are Rachel Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Texarkana, Arkansas.

In a preliminary report by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the driver of the boat, John Deselms, admitted that before the crash occurred he had taken an unknown anti-depressant, having approximately 10 beers and drinking a shot of tequila.

Deselms was arrested and has been cited for Operation of a Vessel while under the influence.

The investigation is ongoing.

Updated May 17, 2013 at 4:10 PM CST:  A medical examiner says the two people killed in a boating accident earlier this week on Grand Lake died of blunt forced trauma and both deaths have been ruled accidental.

Rachel Swetnam of Grove, Oklahoma and Trey Varner of Texarkana, Arkansas were killed in the crash.  Both were students at the University of Arkansas.

Authorities say a ski boat carrying eight people was traveling very fast when it crashed into an empty houseboat docked in Duck Creek.

The two people killed were both in the front of the boat.

A preliminary report shows alcohol and speed were among the contributing factors in the crash.

The GRDA says the investigation could take up to two weeks to complete.

Updated May 16, 2013 at 3:00 PM CST:  The cause of Tuesday's boat collision on Grand Lake that killed two people is still under investigation.

Justin Alberty of the GRDA tells us they are "investigating speed and alcohol as possible contributing factors".

At about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday a boat carrying several passengers collided with a docked houseboat.

Rachel Swetnam and William Lewis "Trey" Varner III were killed in the crash.

Updated May 15, 2013 at 10:36 AM CST: Press release from Grand River Damn Authority:

Langley - A boat collision on Grand Lake early Tuesday evening has resulted in two fatalities, according to the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department.

The collision occurred at approximately 5:30PM Tuesday in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake. According to preliminary reports from the GRDA Police, a boat, carrying multiple passengers collided with a houseboat, docked at Arrowhead Yacht Club. The two fatalities were passengers in the front of the moving boat. Four other passengers in the boat were transported to Craig General Hospital in Vinita. Additional passengers refused treatment at the scene.

Currently, the investigation into the accident is still underway. Further details will be available as the GRDA Police completes its report.

Updated May 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM CST: Identities of victims released

University of Arkansas confirms Rachel Swetnam and William Lewis "Trey" Varner III were the two fatalities of yesterdays boat crash on Grand Lake.

Swetnam was a 2010 graduate of Cascia Hall in Tulsa. She was a student at the University of Arkansas set to graduate next year.

Varner was also a student at the university who was studying marketing.

Swetnam and Varner died when a 22-foot Colbat vessel carrying eight people collided with a large houseboat that was docked in a marina in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake.

Some of the injured are also students at the University of Arkansas, according to the university.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Updated May 14, 2013 at 10:20 PM CST:  Just before 6 p.m. this evening a recreational boat with eight people on board collided with an empty houseboat near Arrowhead boat dock on Grand Lake in the Afton, Oklahoma area.

Authorities tell us at least one person jumped from the boat before impact.

Authorities say two people were killed at the scene and at least four others were taken to area hospitals.

A woman on shore called 911.

Authorities have not yet released the names or ages of the victims.

Updated May 14, 2013 at 7:27 PM CST:  CBS affiliate KOTV in Tulsa reports two are dead, and two are injured.  They are sourcing the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol.

Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:06 PM CST:  The Grove Police Department says the Grand River Dam Authority is working a boat collision at Arrowhead North on Grand Lake.

We have a crew en route to the scene.

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