Elementary School Teacher Is Killed in Boat Crash — and Ala. Couple Is Charged

An Alabama couple was arrested Wednesday in connection with a deadly boat crash that killed an elementary school teacher.

Jodi and Nick Suggs, both 50, were indicted by a Winston County grand jury Tuesday.

The couple were charged with misdemeanor criminally negligent homicide stemming from the fatal July 4th crash on Rock Creek in Smith Lake that resulted in the death of 26-year-old Kelsey Starling, a speech pathologist at Tuggle Elementary School.

Related Video: One Body Found, Three People Missing After Boat Collision

The University of Alabama graduate’s body has not yet been recovered despite an extensive search, which has included divers from across the U.S. and Canada.

The couple turned themselves in Wednesday and have since been released on a $3,000 bond. They are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 3.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the couple’s lawyer, Jason P. Knight, said the two “vehemently deny the misdemeanor charges against them and look forward to being vindicated and put an end to this nightmare.”

The couple, he said, are “universally loved and respected in their personal and business communities. They have both cooperated with the investigation of this boating accident since day one.”

Jodi and Nick Suggs | Winston County Sheriff’s Office
Jodi and Nick Suggs | Winston County Sheriff’s Office

The deadly crash occurred around 10 p.m. on July 4. Starling was tossed from the 2012 Mastercraft wakeboard boat she was in along with four other passengers who sustained minor injuries in the collision with the Suggs’ 2011 Harris Flotebote pontoon boat.

William Jackson Fite, who was driving the wakeboard, was charged with boating under the influence on the day of the crash and was released on $2,000 bond. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

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“We appreciate the tireless efforts of law enforcement and search personnel to locate Kelsey,” Starling’s family wrote in a statement obtained by AL.com. “We also very much appreciate the love and support we have received from so many individuals at Smith Lake and throughout our state. We have been especially touched by the blue Kelsey ribbons that have seemingly appeared everywhere in Alabama and states beyond. This has provided our family significant comfort.”

The family declined to comment on the arrests.

A GoFundMe page has so far raised nearly $70,000 to buy diving equipment to aid in the search for the teacher.