Fatal ATV accident mars exclusive Yellowstone gathering

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Anthony Effinger

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- The all-terrain vehicle accident that killed a 19-year-old at Montana’s exclusive Yellowstone Club happened on the first night of the community’s annual family weekend, according to a person familiar with the event.

The ski-and-golf club - which includes Microsoft co- founder Bill Gates, Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and hedge fund manager Cliff Asness of AQR Capital Management as members - holds the three-day "Camp Yellowstone" every year. There are sack races, an egg toss and tug-of-war, according to the person, who said he couldn’t speak publicly about activities at the private club southwest of Bozeman.

What was supposed to be a festive occasion became tragic. Parker Regan, of Mendham, N.J., died after his prep-school roommate, James Sinclair Welch, the son of a New York hedge-fund manager, made a turn late on Thursday in the 13,600-acre (5,500 hectare) haven, causing Regan to fall out of the vehicle, according to an affidavit filed in state court by a Montana highway patrolman.

Welch, also 19, was arrested and charged with negligent vehicular homicide under the influence of alcohol. He posted $50,000 bail and was released from jail Friday.

Regan was visiting the club with the Welch family, his father, R. Christopher Regan, said in an Aug. 3 interview. Welch and Regan were roommates at Suffield Academy, a boarding school in Suffield, Conn.,. where Regan was an honor student, according to the school’s website. Welch, who goes by Sinclair, according to the site, is a star soccer player.

The Montana Highway Patrol is investigating the accident, said Sergeant Chad Dever. The charge against Welch carries a maximum sentence of as long as 30 years in prison and $50,000 in fines in Montana, according to the state’s statutes.

"It’s early in the investigation," said Dever.

Membership at Yellowstone is limited primarily to those who own one of the houses and condominiums scattered among 15 ski lifts and an 18-hole golf course. Prices range from $2.5 million for a condominium to $18 million for a ranch with 350 acres. Members pay a $300,000 initiation fee that they get back if they sell their property. Dues are $30,000 a year.

Yellowstone Club spokesman Greg Hitt said the club is cooperating with the probe.

Sinclair Welch was driving a 2012 Polaris Ranger Crew, a four-wheel-drive vehicle. He told police he was making a left turn on Andesite Ridge Road when Regan "fell out," according to the affidavit by Trooper Joshua Brown.

After the incident, Welch refused to submit to a breath test and blood test, according to Brown’s report. He smelled of alcohol, his eyes were watery and bloodshot and his clothes were bloody, the report said.

Montana officers were able to obtain a blood sample from Welch after getting a search warrant by telephone from a Madison County district judge, the report said.

On April 17, Welch was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in a separate incident, according to the affidavit. It didn’t say where that conviction occurred.

Welch was held in jail until about 5 p.m. Aug. 3, when he appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court in Bozeman, posted bail and was released, according to Officer Wylie Herrera at the Gallatin County Detention Center.

Welch’s attorney, William Bartlett of Angel, Coil & Bartlett in Bozeman, didn’t return telephone calls.

Welch is the son of Leighton Welch, founder of Welch Capital Partners. The hedge fund, with offices on Park Avenue in New York, had $350 million in assets at the end of December, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The family lives in Bronxville, N.Y. Leighton Welch, reached in Montana, declined to comment on the incident.

— With assistance from Saijel Kishan.

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