Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Driver In Fatal Boat Crash Consumed Alcohol and Drugs, Report States

The University of Arkansas student who drove the boat in a crash that killed two of his classmates May 14 admitted he had been drinking and taking drugs prior t...
boat crash

The University of Arkansas student who drove the boat in a crash that killed two of his classmates May 14 admitted he had been drinking and taking drugs prior to the incident, according to a marine investigation report from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The report states John DeSelms was arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol after the 22-foot-long ski boat he was driving smashed into a docked, unoccupied houseboat at a marina on Grand Lake in Oklahoma.

While being treated at a nearby hospital, DeSelms told investigators he had consumed about 10 beers, one shot of tequila and an anti-depressant that was not prescribed to him before the crash. He also admitted to using marijuana two days earlier, according to the investigation report.

After being released from the hospital, DeSelms was not booked into jail but instead was released on his medical recognizance, prosecutors said. Charges will not be filed for about a month but could include first-degree manslaughter, according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

The two UA students died from blunt force trauma at the scene of the wreck, according to findings released by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.

An examiner’s report states William “Trey” Varner III died of accidental blunt force trauma to the head, while Rachel Swetnam was killed by accidental blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Meanwhile, a memorial service for the two students who were killed was carried out Tuesday in the Union Verizon Ballroom on the UA campus.

Investigators said at the time of the crash that they believed alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the wreck, although toxicology results from Varner and Swetnam will not be available for two to four months, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Varner, of Texarkana, Ark., and Swetnam, of Grove, Okla., were killed when a 22-foot Cobalt ski boat carrying eight people collided with a large empty houseboat docked in a marina at Arrowhead Yacht Club in the Duck Creek arm of Grand Lake near Grove, Okla.

Others in the boat included Taylor Perry, of Springdale, Eugene DeVerges, Bryce Banham, both of Tulsa, Taylor Reynolds of Plano, Tx., and Chad Scott of Perry, Okla.

Deselms and Perry were transported to Craig General Hospital for treatment and later released. Some of those in the boat were students at the University of Arkansas, according to the university.

Swetnam, a Tri Delta sorority member, was set to graduate in apparel studies from the UA next year.

“Rachel is someone that we`re really going to miss. She`s actually the first person I threw up the Delta with, a really sweet girl. We`re really going to miss her,” said Cassie Murphy, Tri Delta member.

“She was actually going to live in LA this summer and intern up there because she`s a fashion design major,” said Sara, Tri Delta member.

Varner was studying marketing and a fraternity member at Kappa Sigma.

“He could definitely light up a room, just by being with them.  Rachel and him were really good friends,” said Murphy.

Emergency 911 calls released Wednesday by authorities provided new details on the tragedy.

The calls came in from other boaters who witnessed the crash.

Below are excerpts from the 911 calls:

Caller: “There are eight people. Gosh, there’s blood everywhere. People are sitting on the dock. Two of them are lying on the dock, blood everywhere. Two on the dock are alive.”

2nd Caller: “We got a marjor accident at Arrowhead. Major, major wreck, okay?”
911: “Okay, injuries?”
Caller: “Yeah, big time.”

3rd Caller: “People are hurt, possibly two fatalities. A boat ran into, its inside the other boat, the whole boat is inside the other boat.”

4th Caller: “A boat just an into the dock 40-50 miles per hour. There were about six people in it.”

“We continued processing the scene and were able to remove the Cobalt vessel from the scene,” said Police Chief Bryan Edwards of the Grand River Dam Authority.

Click here to hear the 911 call.

Click here to see the memorial ceremony set up for the two students killed.

Click here for more stories about the crash.