Boater faces homicide charges in lowhead dam collision

Written by Brett Sholtis/WITF News | Aug 22, 2018 3:09 PM
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Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo speaks to media at the Dauphin County Courthouse Aug. 22, 2018. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)

The man who struck a lowhead dam on the Susquehanna River, killing his fiancee and their daughter, is facing criminal charges. 

Palmyra resident Cody Binkley, 26, was under the influence of marijuana when he took his fiancee Mary Bredbenner and their 3-year-old daughter Madelyn Binkley out on his motorboat the night of May 7, said Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo, referring to a toxicology report following the incident. Binkley, a recovering heroin user on opioid replacement therapy, also tested positive for methadone and anti-depressants, according to the report.

Chardo said Binkley's mental state as a result of drug use, as well as his lack of preparation, made his decision to take his boat out that night an act of criminal negligence.

"He did so while under the influence of marijuana... he did so without equipping the child with a proper life vest, and he did so without extensive knowledge of the river," Chardo said.

Newly-public video footage shows the boat approaching the Dock Street Dam from downstream and riding parallel with it before abruptly turning left into the dam.

Chardo declined to say whether Binkley told police why he rammed his boat into the dam, and described the move as inexplicable. 

Bredbenner and their daughter died after being thrown from the boat during the collision. The girl wasn't wearing a life jacket when her body was found. Binkley's dog also died in the incident.

Binkley's actions after the collision also factored into his decision to press charges, Chardo said. Police reports state that Binkley made it out of the water quickly and drove himself to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia. He left the hospital against doctors' advice and went home to sleep while first responders searched through the night for his girlfriend and his daughter.

"And while many of the brave men and women... of the police and emergency services battled to find his girlfriend and his child, did so for many, many hours and the day after, he went home and went to sleep," Chardo said. "He went home and went to sleep. Well, that really, really struck me, the fact that he did that."

Published in Harrisburg, News

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