Family members filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking $10.35 million in connection with the death of their son, a former Richmond resident who authorities said was killed in a Lancaster County boating accident.
The parents of Graham McCormick, who was 31 when he died in August, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Richmond Circuit Court.
The first defendant named in the lawsuit is 31-year-old John Randolph Hooper, a Richmond man known as Rand Hooper who is facing a misdemeanor charge in Lancaster of failing to promptly report the Aug. 11 boating accident in Carter Creek.
Hooper’s parents, Gary Lee Hooper and Lucy W. Hooper, are also named as defendants in the civil lawsuit brought by McCormick’s parents, J. Burke McCormick and Sallie T. Graham, in their role as administrators of his estate.
Gary Hooper is a former senior vice president at the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, while Lucy Hooper is an executive vice president at the Richmond-based Davenport and Co. LLC financial services firm.
The lawsuit accuses Rand Hooper of operating his parents’ 21-foot Boston Whaler powerboat while under the influence of alcohol, and it also alleges that he had the vessel traveling at a high speed at the time of the crash.
The McCormick family’s court papers also charge that Hooper caused McCormick’s death by driving the vessel into a bulkhead. The litigation also alleges Hooper tried to cover up the accident with help from his parents.
Rand Hooper and Lucy Hooper could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. Gary Hooper declined to comment on the allegations made in the 33-page complaint.
On Aug. 10, the lawsuit says, the victim went to visit his friend at Rand Hooper’s parents’ home in Irvington.
McCormick, the younger Hooper and other friends went out for dinner and drinks that evening and came home about 8:30 p.m., and the drinking continued, the lawsuit states. By 12:30 a.m., everyone had gone to bed except Hooper and McCormick, who went out in the powerboat down Carter Creek toward the Rappahannock River, the lawsuit says.
Hooper sped the boat along despite being in a dark waterway filled with hazards, the lawsuit alleges, before the vessel slammed into a bulkhead jutting out into the water.
“The impact of the crash sent the Boston Whaler airborne and launched Graham into the dark, dangerous waters of Carter Creek,” the lawsuit says. “The impact of the crash severely injured Graham and rendered him helpless to save himself.”
Fearing the consequences of the crash, Hooper fled the scene and left his friend behind, the lawsuit alleges. Hooper went back to the Irvington home’s dock and “began calculated efforts to cover up his crime,” the McCormick family charges in the litigation.
The lawsuit also accuses Gary and Lucy Hooper — who were in South Africa at the time — of helping their son cover up the crash. The litigation alleges Hooper told only his parents about the accident, and the lawsuit also says Gary and Lucy Hooper tried to use their mobile phones in South Africa to remotely erase any surveillance video from cameras at their Irvington estate.
The McCormick litigation says Hooper went to bed after returning to the Irvington home on the boat, and the civil complaint claims he “feigned surprise” that McCormick wasn’t in his room in the morning.
As his family got news he was missing, Graham McCormick’s parents rushed to the Irvington home, and his mother went to the shoreline of the estate frantically calling her son’s name and searching the water near the home with an oar, the lawsuit states.
McCormick was reported missing about 10:30 a.m., with the caller saying he might have fallen off the dock, according to the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office. McCormick was found an hour later in water nearly 2 miles from the Irvington home, and he had a cut and scratches to the left side of his head when he was pulled out, according to sheriff’s detectives.
Investigators, who spotted damage to the powerboat during a visit to the Irvington home, eventually concluded the vessel had been in an accident near where McCormick’s body was found.
Lancaster Sheriff Patrick McCranie has said in recent weeks that it’s unclear when or if additional criminal charges will be filed in the case beyond the misdemeanor boating charge that was filed last month against Rand Hooper. The sheriff stressed that he expects the case will entail a long investigation.
The state medical examiner has found that McCormick’s death was caused by drowning and that blunt-force trauma was a contributing factor in his death, McCranie said. The sheriff has also said he can’t definitively say who was driving the boat at the time of the accident, saying that aspect remains under investigation. Rand Hooper has said he does not remember who was driving the boat at the time of the crash, the Sheriff’s Office has said.
The McCormick family’s civil litigation also accuses Gary and Lucy Hooper of enabling their son’s drinking from the time he was a teenager.
The lawsuit says Rand Hooper was charged with underage possession of alcohol in Goochland County in 2005 and eventually convicted.
The litigation also said he was convicted of DUI in 2009 in Prince Edward County and in Richmond in 2015.
The litigation also says Rand Hooper was convicted of brandishing a firearm in connection with a July 2011 incident outside a Richmond bar where he allegedly shot someone.