Memorial service honors boating accident victims

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009



LAPLACE — On the evening of Aug. 9, 2008, the lives of five young men from the River Parishes were tragically cut short following a boating accident on the Blind River in St. James Parish. A year later, the pain of the loss still lingers for those close to the boys, but the memories of happier times carry on.

Family and friends of Stanley Borne Jr., 22, Ken Horzelski, 22, Joshua McNulty, 20, Patrick McTopy, 23, and Chance Millet, 25, gathered at Highway 51 Park in LaPlace Sunday to share stories about the boys. The focus stayed on the good times, but a few tears were still shed along the way.

“They say tears make a stairway into heaven,” said Fran Horzelski, Ken’s mother. “With all the tears that have been shed by all of us, I think the boys have amounted an interstate.”

Nearly 200 people turned out for the ceremony, held on a very hot and humid evening. Horzelski said it was truly an honor to see so many come out to pay tribute to her son and his friends.

“My son had the honor of having such good friends,” Horzelski said. “There was a deep bond between those five boys.”

Family members shared poems and read letters, while friends gathered around a table full of photos and other memorabilia from the boys’ lives. The event concluded with a massive balloon release at 4:45 p.m., the approximate time of the accident.

“It makes me feel good to know that my boy and his four other friends touched so many lives,” said Deborah Borne, Stanley’s mother. “We all still miss them, but we are all taking it one day at a time.”

Dianne Montabello, a friend of all five boys, remembered the distinctive personality that each of them conveyed.

“Those boys had an extremely unique bond between them,” said Montabello, who said she often saw all of the boys daily. “They were the kind of group that you meet once in a lifetime.”

In an effort to prevent future boating tragedies from occurring, the families have banded together to speak out about boating safety at boat launches across the River Parishes. They also teamed up with State Rep. Nickie Monica to draft newly enacted boating regulations.

Monica proposed new legislation during the 2009 state legislative session that requires all boat passengers under the age of 16 to wear life jackets while on the water. He has also made it mandatory for anyone under 25 to take a boating certification course before taking any kind of craft out on the water. Monica said the new laws had an overwhelming amount of support.

“A few of the family members came with me to Baton Rouge to share their story with legislators,” Monica said. “I knew some of the boys personally and this has been good for the healing process.”

“Safe boating saves lives,” Horzelski said. “That is the message we are hoping to get across to people.”