Boat accident still investigated by officials
Published 12:00 am Friday, August 15, 2008
By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE – As the St. John community tries to mend from the tragic boating accident that claimed the lives of five area youths last weekend, investigators with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are continuing their inquiry into what actually happened that fateful evening.
Funeral services were held this week for 22-year-old Stanley Borne Jr., 23-year-old Patrick McTopy Jr., 25-year-old Chance Millet, 20-year-old Josh McNulty, and 22-year-old Ken Horzelski. The five boys, along with 21-year-old Brandon Prudhomme, who is still hospitalized with serious injuries, were onboard a 20-foot runabout boat when it collided with a 30-foot cabin cruiser Saturday evening as the boats were navigating the waters of Blind River in northern St. John Parish. The tragedy, which has been dubbed one of the worst boating accidents in state history, sent shockwaves all throughout the small community where the boys grew up.
“Really, I’m still just stunned,” said St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard. “I can only imagine what these families are going through right now. It is going to take some time for us to heal.”
Officials with Wildlife and Fisheries said this week that their investigation into what transpired might also take a while to conclude.
Bo Boehringer, press secretary for Wildlife and Fisheries, said enforcement division personnel are planning to put boats in the water to recreate, step by step, the maneuvers made before the two watercrafts collided with each other. He also said the department will take aerial snapshots of the scene in an effort to determine line of sight the boat pilots may have had.
“It is a complicated investigation, and there are still a lot of interviews that need to take place,” said Boehringer. “This is something that could take quite a bit of time.”
The key interview that investigators are waiting on is with Prudhomme, the lone survivor of the wreck. Boehringer said investigators have not been able to talk with him since he is still recovering from his injuries. Prudhomme remains in serious condition at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge.
Boehringer said investigators are still not completely sure who was piloting the runabout at the time of the accident, and they are hoping that Prudhomme can shed some light on the subject. Boehringer said the department is operating under the assumption that McNulty was behind the wheel because the boat is registered in his father’s name.
Boehringer said the department is still awaiting a toxicology report on McNulty to see if impairment on his part might have been a factor in the wreck. Those results could be available as soon as a week or as long as a month. Boehringer said the pilot of the cabin cruiser showed no signs of impairment based on field sobriety and Breathalyzer tests.