Investigators: Educator Craig Butz at fault in fatal boat crash

Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat on Sept. 23. [Times (2017)]
Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat on Sept. 23. [Times (2017)]
Published March 19, 2018

Investigators have determined that Pepin Academies executive director Craig Butz was at fault in the Sept. 23 boating accident that took his life.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators said the crash was caused by Butz through "operator inexperience and inattention," according to a Jan. 16 accident report.

Alcohol was also a contributing factor, the report said, as Butz's blood-alcohol level was 0.156, which is almost twice the level at which Florida law presumes a driver is impaired.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pepin Academies' leader Craig Butz killed in boat crash; 4-year-old daughter critically hurt

Butz and his family were staying at a house on Clearwater Beach the weekend of the accident, the report said. At about 4:30 p.m., Butz and his daughter, Teagan Butz, then 4, took out a 2016 Sea-Doo personal watercraft they borrowed from the home into the intracoastal waterway, the report said. Then they returned to the house.

Butz and his daughter went back out on the Sea-Doo, the report said accelerating east away from the beach home. They collided with the left side of a 36-foot boat that was traveling northwest in the channel.

The boat, captained by Thomas Carey, 67, was heading to a home at the Carlouel Yacht Club, investigators said. Carey turned sharply at the last second to try to avoid the collision, causing the smaller personal watercraft to go underneath the nose of the boat, according to the report.

Both Butz and his daughter were thrown from the craft. Butz, 52, was pronounced dead at Morton Plant Hospital of blunt head trauma, the report said. His daughter suffered a head injury and broken bones in her arms and legs.

Carey and his three passengers, Janette Bejkova, 31; Hildegrarde Bejkovam 52; and Zdenek Bejlek, 53, were not injured.

FROM 2013: New principal of Pepin Academies is former hockey player known for fights on ice

Butz was a professional hockey player who played in the Western Hockey League and Major Junior Hockey League. But he didn't make it to the NHL, so he focused on teaching.

He earned a master's degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills and a doctorate in special education at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He had been with Pepin Academies, which runs charter schools for students with learning disabilities in Tampa, Riverview and New Port Richey, since 2013.