Richmond man charged with misdemeanor in boat accident that authorities say killed 1
A Richmond man has been charged with not promptly reporting an August boating accident that investigators said took the life of Graham McCormick, a Hampden-Sydney College graduate.
John Randolph Hooper, 31, was charged Oct. 5 with a misdemeanor count of failing to make a timely report of the boat accident, according to online court records with the Lancaster County General District Court.
McCormick, a 31-year-old former Richmond man, was found Aug. 11 floating in Carters Creek off the Rappahannock River, Lancaster Sheriff’s Office investigators said in a search warrant filed in the case. McCormick had been visiting friends at an Irvington home owned by Hooper’s father, investigators said in court papers.
Hooper declined to comment for this story on Thursday. His attorney, Jeffrey Matthews, also declined to comment.
Beyond the misdemeanor charge, it’s unclear whether additional charges will be filed in the case, said Lancaster Sheriff Patrick McCranie. The sheriff said he could not say definitively who was driving the boat at the time of the accident, adding that is still under investigation.
The sheriff said he expects the case will entail a long-drawn-out investigation.
“We’re still trying to bring closure but, like I said, it’s gong to take awhile,” McCranie said.
When McCormick, a corporate finance analyst at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, was reported missing, the caller said he was last seen down by a dock at the residence and it was suspected he might have fallen into the water, according to Maj. William Webb, chief deputy at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office.
But investigators eventually concluded that McCormick, who was found in the water nearly 2 miles from the dock of the home where he had been staying, instead died following a boating accident that involved a 1999 Boston Whaler powerboat registered to Gary Hooper, John Randolph Hooper’s father.
The elder Hooper, a Richmond native and former senior vice president at the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, had been in Africa traveling at the time of the incident, Webb said.
Authorities said the boat struck a bulkhead in the water. When he was pulled from the water, McCormick had a cut and scratches to the left side of his head and face, the sheriff’s office said in court papers.
The state medical examiner’s office said McCormick’s death was caused by drowning and that his death was accidental, but the sheriff’s office has said it is awaiting a final autopsy report in the case before coming to that conclusion.
In the search warrant filed in the case, investigators said McCormick had been with a group of friends on Aug. 10 and that witnesses said the group went for a boat ride and then out to dinner. Witnesses told investigators that after dinner, the group returned to the home and that McCormick was hanging out at the dock with two friends drinking alcoholic beverages, according to the search warrant.
The two witnesses who were with McCormick told investigators that all three of them went to their separate rooms around 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, the sheriff’s office said in court papers. Later that morning, around 10:30 a.m., McCormick was reported missing and his body was found about an hour later, according to the sheriff’s office.
In a visit to the home three days later, Lancaster sheriff’s detectives said they spotted damage to the boat. An accident reconstruction by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries determined the boat had been involved in an accident that happened near where McCormick’s body was found, investigators said in court papers.
John Randolph Hooper told investigators that he remembers getting the boat off the bulkhead after it crashed but has said he does not recall who was driving the vessel at the time of the accident, Webb said.
McCormick’s family has retained a Roanoke-based law firm that is also examining the circumstances surrounding his death. Matt Broughton, an attorney for the family, said Thursday that the family is being patient waiting to see what the investigation finds.
“They are definitely heartbroken and trying to figure this thing out,” Broughton said.