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Jet Ski Fatality Case Back In Bass Lake Court

BASS LAKE – The man charged with misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter in the death of David Flores, 13, of Fresno, who died after being run over by a jet ski at Bass Lake on June 27, was back in Bass Lake Superior Court today.

Phat Chau, 55, of San Jose, appeared with his attorney Michael Idiart this morning, and after discovery documents were produced by both sides, the case was continued until Sept. 29 at 9 a.m., when Mr. Idiart is expected to ask the court to order a pre-plea Probation report for his client.

“Ordinarily, when you plead guilty, your case is sent to Probation for a recommendation on sentencing,” says Idiart. “In this case, you assume you’re going to plead guilty, and you get a recommendation from Probation which gives everybody a little bit of an open eye as to what may happen if you do so.”

Idiart says he is working with the D.A.’s Office to reach some sort of consensus on a resolution to this case. He notes that he doesn’t think the facts of the case are largely in dispute, but rather it is a question of the level of negligence – whether it’s simple negligence or criminal negligence.

“This is not a felony, there was no alcohol involved; it was a terrible, unfortunate accident,” says Idiart. “But it also has consequences. If you acted negligently in not observing the tube being pulled behind the party boat, and you tried to pass by going behind it, that may or may not be a misdemeanor manslaughter, and that’s what we’re working on. Criminal negligence is a higher type of negligence than simply making a mistake.”

District Attorney David Linn says he had wanted to charge this case as a felony, and that he is not backing off these charges at all.

During their investigation following the incident at Bass Lake, Sheriff’s detectives determined that David Flores, his aunt Julissa Valenzuela, and David’s father were riding on an inflatable tube behind their pontoon boat when they were struck by the jet ski. David Flores was killed, while Julissa suffered serious injuries to the head, and was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The father was not injured.

The family of Mr. Chau was present with him in court today, and his attorney turned over letters of support and character references to the D.A.

Both sides anticipate the request for a pre-plea Probation report during the pre-trial hearing on Sept. 29, which Linn says should take about three weeks to complete.


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