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A woman died in a 2020 boat crash. Florida police now call it a BUI manslaughter case.

·3 min read

A 71-year-old Key West entertainer was under the influence of a mixture of alcohol and prescription pills when the boat he was driving crashed in January 2020, leaving a woman dead, state fish and wildlife police said.

Johnny Louis “Jeep” Caillouet, a longtime performer at Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square, was arrested Thursday.

Caillouet faces a felony charge of boating under the influence manslaughter for the crash that left 49-year-old Saronne Lee Prater dead, FWC said.

Caillouet on Friday was at the county jail on Stock Island on a $250,000 bond. It was unclear whether he has an attorney.

The night of Jan. 21, 2020, Caillouet was operating a 2003 11-foot Carolina Skiff inside the Key West Historic Seaport with Prater aboard seated on a cooler, according to Officer Bobby Dube, a spokesman for FWC.

Jan. 21 was Prater’s birthday.

At the time, the National Weather Service had issued a small craft advisory for the area due to strong winds.

“During the night of the accident the National Weather Service recorded gusts approaching 40 knots,” Dube said in a statement issued Friday.

Caillouet was leaving the seaport and headed northwest toward Wisteria Island, an undeveloped island off Key West where some people have built camps or live on boats.

According to an arrest warrant, Caillouet was “known to inhabit Wisteria Island,” and his last known address was in Key West.

While cruising, a wave crashed over the bow of the boat causing it to capsize, Dube said. FWC responded to the crash at 7:30 p.m.

Both Caillouet and Prater were ejected from the vessel. Prater sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West while Caillouet had minor injuries, FWC said in January 2020.

Prater was a native of Somerset, Ky., and had studied at the University of Kentucky, according to her Facebook page. An obituary posted by a funeral home in Richmond, Ky., said she had two daughters and four grandchildren.

Caillouet refused a request for a voluntary blood draw after the crash, Dube said, but FWC investigators obtained a search warrant for his blood.

On Friday, Dube released the lab results of the blood test, which listed alcohol, diazepam, nordiazepam, temazepam, carisoprodol and meprobamate, along with tetrahydrocannabinol.

“All the results are indicative of Mr. Caillouet’s impairment,” Dube said.

In January 2020, FWC called the crash alcohol-related but didn’t offer details. On Friday, Dube said FWC investigators interviewed Caillouet at Lower Keys Medical Center after the crash.

“Signs of alcohol impairment were observed,” Dube said.

Caillouet told investigators at the hospital that after the crash he looked for Prater but couldn’t find her, according to the arrest warrant statement of probable cause.

Investigators said Caillouet smelled of alcohol and that he said he lost a 24-pack of beer and a half bottle of rum during the vessel crash, the warrant states.

FWC Investigator Brittany Mobley interviewed Caillouet, saying he stumbled while walking out of the entrance of the emergency room.

“I could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his person and facial area,” Mobley wrote in the warrant.

In the beginning of the interview, Caillouet said he had had one drink, Mobley wrote, but said later he had a Budweiser beer and two shots of rum.

“Caillouet also stated he took a Soma at the same time when he received his prescription,” Mobley wrote.

Soma is a brand name of carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant.

On Wednesday, Mobley obtained an arrest warrant for Caillouet.

The warrant was signed by Judge Ruth Becker. The next day Mobley and other FWC officers met with Caillouet and he was arrested without incident, Dube said.

Boating crashes and deaths have surged across Florida. This is what we’re facing now

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