Prominent land-developer Javier A. Burillo of Belvedere has been charged with manslaughter, child endangerment and drunken driving in a September boating accident near Angel Island that killed his 11-year-old son and severely injured the boy’s older brother.
According to a criminal complaint filed June 11 by the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, Burillo, 58, is facing three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, operation of a watercraft while under the influence and child endangerment, as well as a misdemeanor count of operating a watercraft with a blood-alcohol level above the state legal limit of .08 percent.
If found guilty on all counts, Burillo could face up to nine years in state prison.
He is set to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. July 17 in Marin County Superior Court.
Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli declined to comment on the charges, which come some nine months after Burillo was initially arrested.
Authorities say Burillo was operating his boat while drunk on Sept. 15 last year when his two sons, ages 11 and 27, were thrown off and severely cut but the boat’s propellers, killing the 11-year-old and injuring the other.
Burillo’s attorney, Douglas Horngrad, said he plans to plead not guilty to the charges.
“Mr. Burillo is innocent of any crime here. This was a pure accident,” Horngrad said in a June 12 email. “Surely, the Marin District Attorney’s Office has better things to do with county resources than trying to turn a tragic accident into something more than that.”
Horngrad instead pointed blame at the manufacturer of the boat Burillo was driving that day.
“If someone wanted to look at the real cause of this accident, that would be Rayglass Boats/Protector USA,” he said. “This boat has design defects which … failed to guard against a fatal propeller accident.”
When asked to provide information about the alleged defects, Horngrad declined to comment further.
Police say Burillo was driving his inflatable 33-foot Targa Protector, which is equipped with twin outboard engines, in rough waters near Angel Island when his two sons were ejected from the bow. They were on their way back from a day trip to San Francisco to the Corinthian Yacht Club, where Burillo was a member and had a slip.
After the boat’s propellers struck the two victims, the older son was able to help Burillo recover the other boy from the water.
About 7 p.m. Sept. 15, Burillo called police from his Bellevue Avenue home on Corinthian Island to report his 11-year-old was unresponsive on their boat at the yacht club.
Tiburon Fire Protection District paramedics and the Belvedere police were the first to arrive at the docks, where the 11-year-old was declared dead and his older brother was taken to MarinHealth Medical Center with severe leg lacerations.
Police then found Burillo at his home. Officers administered a breath test and determined Burillo had been drinking and that his blood-alcohol concentration was over the .08 limit for operating a boat. The exact result of the test has not been made public.
He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with a vessel, willful harm or injury to a child and reckless operation of a vessel; a boating death becomes legally non-accidental when the operator is suspected to be under the influence of alcohol.
The results of the victim’s post-mortem examination and toxicology test have yet to be released.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,168 recreational boating accidents in 2019 with 613 fatalities. Among those, there were 171 propeller accidents with 155 injuries and 35 deaths. Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal accidents, playing a role in 113, or 18 percent, of all deaths.
The Targa Protector is not equipped with propeller guards from the manufacturer. The Coast Guard and Boat Owners Association of the U.S. say boaters can avoid propeller accidents by purchasing propeller-safety devices, not allowing passengers to ride on the bow, ensuring passengers are seated and avoiding alcohol consumption, among other advice.
Burillo, also known as Javier Burillo Azcarraga, is a well-known real-estate developer in Mexico and the U.S. who reportedly owns some 18 restaurants and is the developer of Las Ventanas al Paraiso, an award-winning resort in San Jose del Cabo on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. His family, the Azcarragas, is one of the wealthiest in Mexico and own Grupo Televisa, the primary TV network in Mexico and reportedly the largest producer and broadcaster of Spanish-language media in the world. The network was founded by his grandfather.
Reporter Hannah Weikel covers the city of Belvedere, as well as crime, courts and public safety issues on the Tiburon Peninsula. Reach her at 415-944-4627.