When people hear “drunk driving” they tend to think in terms of cars, motorcycles, and sometimes semi-trucks. But as it turns out, the term applies to vehicles without wheels as well. Drivers of boats are also governed by laws and regulations that restrict their actions while on state waters.
Brandon Verfaille, a 32-year-old resident of Chesterfield Township, was recently arraigned in the St. Clair County District Court in Port Huron. He was charged with multiple felonies for operating a boat while intoxicated which resulted in a fatal boat crash this past summer.
According to court records, on August 3rd, Verfaillie was drunk while operating a 25-foot Baja powerboat in the South Channel off Harsen’s Island in Lake St. Clair. At about 6:45 in the evening he apparently struck a cabin cruiser and rode up over the top of it.
57-year-old Robert Koontz and 68-year-old Nancy Axford, who were passengers on the cabin cruiser, were pronounced dead at the scene. A third person, Marlene Koonz suffered severe injuries as a result of the accident.
St. Clair Prosecutors charged him with two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, and one count of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury. Both charges are felonies and carry significant penalties.
Verfaille was given a bond of $75,000 cash or surety, with conditional release. If he chooses to post bail, he will not be allowed to drink alcohol and will be required to wear an alcohol-sensitive tether. He is also forbidden from operating either a car or a boat.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), boating fatalities are second only to highway fatalities in the United States. It is important to be properly educated about Michigan’s laws governing boaters, and avoid being a drunk boater.
If you are considering buying a boat or taking up boating as a hobby in the future, as attorneys we recommend that you enroll in a boating safety course offered by the Department of Natural Resources, and familiarize yourself with the laws that govern boating activities in Michigan.