Sheriff's deputies say the driver of the boat was intoxicated and has been arrested for DUI. The 10 and 11-year-old girls have been released from the hospital but the 13-year-old girl is still in critical condition.
Family members say this is a tragic accident but the suspect, who is related to all three girls, has a history of driving drunk.
On Sunday afternoon, tragedy struck the South Kings County portion of the Kings River. Three girls, two of them sisters the other a cousin, were excited to be innter tubing for the first time. A father of two of the girls was on a jet ski pulling the inter tube. Following them were more family members in a motorboat. The driver was 29-year-old Rodrigo Gamino.
"He was rounding a bend and came upon the path of the jet ski that was towing the girls. He made an evasive maneuver but couldn't avoid colliding with the tubers," Cmdr. Dave Putnam said. When deputies arrived to the scene, they suspected Gamino was drunk.
"By his own admission and by some observations made by the deputies at the scene, a preliminary alcohol screening test was given at the scene that showed he was over the legal limit."
Gamino has a lengthy criminal history that includes two DUI arrests in 2001 and 2006. He was also a suspect in an attempted murder in Avenal in 2006. He currently has a legal driving license and is not on parole.
While deputies believe Gamino's intoxication impaired his driving of the motorboat, family members don't blame him for the accident.
"It was an accident. We can't blame nobody. The jet ski they both tried to not hit each other but the boat was too big and still hit the girls. It was nobody's fault," Mireya Gamino said. Gamino says her brother would never intentionally hurt his nieces and cousin.
The Sheriff's Office says the portion of the Kings River was open and though the water is high, is not as dangerous as the closed sections of the river. The two other girls were also sent to the hospital for bruises and one broke her shoulder. They've since been released.