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Gary Poltash and Suzana Brito are pictured in Muskoka. Both died after an Aug. 24, 2019, boating accident involving celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary.Handout

Linda O’Leary, wife of celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary, has been charged by provincial police in a boat crash this summer in Ontario cottage country that left two people dead. The driver of the other boat was also charged with not having lights on.

After a month-long investigation, Ontario Provincial Police said Ms. O’Leary, 56, has been charged with careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act.

The other driver, Richard Ruh, a 57-year-old man from Orchard Park, N.Y., was charged with failing to exhibit navigation lights, also under the shipping act.

The two boats collided late at night on Aug. 24 on Lake Joseph in Muskoka, where Mr. O’Leary and his wife own a cottage, killing two people, including a mother of three. A spokeswoman for Mr. O’Leary did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Toronto defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, who is representing Ms. O’Leary in the matter, called the charges against his client “regrettable.”

“Ms. O’Leary, who is a cautious and experienced boater, was in a collision on a dark and moonless night with an unlit craft. And we find it difficult to understand how she came to be charged,” he said.

He said Ms. O’Leary injured her foot in the collision and is recovering from surgery. A third person, whom he did not identify, was also on the O’Learys’ boat at the time of the crash.

OPP Staff Sergeant Carolle Dionne said Ms. O’Leary faces a fine of $1-million and up to 18 months in prison if convicted. Mr. Greenspan, however, pointed to a copy of the Canada Gazette from April, 2009, which publishes federal government regulations. The document states that higher penalties and potential jail time applies to non-pleasure vessels, while pleasure vessels carry a maximum penalty of $10,000.

Mr. Ruh’s charge comes with a set fine, akin to a ticket, of $150, and he has 15 days from Sept. 18 to decide whether to exercise his right to a trial, said Nathalie Houle, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecution service.

But a Toronto lawyer representing Mr. Ruh, who practises medicine in the United States, said his client will fight the charge – even go to trial, if necessary. “It’s a ticketing matter and he intends to contest it vigorously,” Mark Sandler said. “It’s important to him. He intends to challenge the case.”

The OPP alleges Mr. Ruh violated the Canada Shipping Act regulations by not displaying a light on his boat’s stern.

“Evidence gathered through the course of the investigation led to the conclusion that resulted in these charges,” Staff Sgt. Dionne said.

Mr. Ruh’s boat was a 12-passenger vessel that was on its way back to a mutual friend’s cottage. Gary Poltash, a 64-year-old Florida man, was killed at the scene. Suzana Brito, a 48-year-old mother of three from Uxbridge, Ont., died two days later from massive head injuries. Three others were taken to hospital and treated for injuries.

Mr. O’Leary, star of Shark Tank and a former leadership candidate for the federal Conservatives, said in a statement released after the crash that he was a passenger in a boat involved in a “tragic collision,” but offered few details. He said the other boat did not have lights on and fled the scene. Relatives of Mr. Poltash, who were not on the boat, have disputed this assertion, telling U.S. media outlets the boat was running with lights.

The OPP later said both boats left the scene and both boat operators called for ambulances.

The OPP said on Tuesday that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada will be managing the court processes. Ms. O’Leary is set to appear in provincial court in Parry Sound on Oct. 29.

With a report from Colin Freeze

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