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January 21, 2015 at 5:13 PM

Wrongful-death suit filed in boat collision on Lake Washington

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Melissa Protz

The parents of a Seattle middle-school teacher killed in a boating collision on Lake Washington in July have filed a wrongful death suit against Richard Hicks, a Renton real estate agent who was allegedly drunk when he is accused of slamming his speeding powerboat into a slow-traveling sail boat.

Hicks, 46, was charged with homicide by watercraft for the July 14 crash that killed Melissa Protz, who suffered massive internal injuries caused by blunt-force trauma,  according to charging papers. He was also charged with assault by watercraft, accused of critically injuring Shreedham Madhavapeddi, the operator of the 22 1/2-foot sailboat.

Protz was on Madhavpeddi’s sailboat along with four others at the time of the crash, the charges say. Another woman on board the sailboat suffered a neck fracture and deep lacerations, but prosecutors did not file a charge against Hicks in connection with her injuries.

Hicks spent four days in the King County Jail before posting $250,000 bail on July 21, jail and court records show. According to charging documents, he is a repeat DUI offender. He is scheduled to stand trial in April.

The wrongful-death complaint was filed on Friday in King County Superior Court by Seattle maritime lawyer, James Jacobsen, on behalf of Protz’s parents, John and Joyce Protz of Port Charlotte, Fla. John Protz is the personal representative of his daughter’s estate, the complaint says.

Melissa Protz taught science at the private Assumption-St. Bridget School in Ravenna.

According to the complaint, Melissa Protz died a “brutal death” as a result of Hicks’ carelessness, negligence and recklessness. The suit seeks punitive damages, as well as damages for Protz’s pre-death pain and suffering and her parents’ loss of consortium and love and affection. A monetary amount is not specified.

Jacobsen was out of the office Wednesday so could not be reached for comment.

Though Hicks is being represented by an attorney in the criminal case, it is unclear whether he has retained a civil attorney. A voice message left for Hicks on Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

In 2002, Hicks was arrested for investigation of DUI and reckless driving in King County. When evidence of the level of alcohol content in his system was suppressed in court, prosecutors amended his charge to reckless driving, according to documents filed in King County District Court. Hicks pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail, with all the time suspended.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: DUI, homicide by watercraft, King County Superior Court

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