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State to pay $900K settlement in fatal boating investigation

(AP) State officials have agreed to pay $900,000 to the family of a Virginia man who was charged but later cleared in a fatal boating accident.

The settlement between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Drew Hall of Martinsville was made final last month, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The agreement came almost a year after a Pittsylvania County judge threw out Hall’s conviction on a misdemeanor charge of improper boating because game department officers had withheld evidence that suggested a jet ski driver involved in the accident may have been at fault. The driver of the jet ski was never charged.

Hall was driving a boat that collided with the jet ski in July 2016 on Smith Mountain Lake. Gabrielle Ayers, 17, of Pfafftown, North Carolina, was a passenger on the jet ski and was fatally injured.

Game department director Ryan Brown pledged March 6 to carry out several reforms as part of the settlement to improve operations and oversight of its law enforcement division.

Hall was represented by Bill Stanley of Moneta.

Two other lawsuits arising from the accident were settled earlier. A judge approved a settlement for Ayers’ family in January 2019, court records show. Hall’s defamation claim against a bystander was settled in December 2018, news reports said.

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