Marne man charged in Grand River boat crash

Becky Vargo • Sep 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM

A 23-year-old Marne man recently pleaded not guilty to a drunken boating crash that occurred in early August at a private marina in Grand Haven Township.

Thomas McCarthy III is awaiting trial on the misdemeanor charge of marine safety, operating while under the influence. A final pretrial conference is set for Oct. 3.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the River’s Edge Yacht Club, 14999 Mercury Drive, at about 1:15 a.m. Aug. 4. Boaters at the marina heard a loud crash and saw a disabled boat floating in the middle of the river, according to Sgt. Eric Westveer of the Sheriff’s Office marine patrol.

McCarthy’s 25-foot boat, a 1998 Power Quest, struck a piling and a boat docked at slip No. 1 on the downriver side of the marina. The occupants of the 35-foot Sea Ray at slip No. 1 had been asleep and were jostled, but not injured, Westveer said. 

Two passengers on the McCarthy boat suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. 

Westveer said McCarthy’s boat was traveling east on the Grand River, failed to slow for no-wake speeds, and then struck the piling and the boat. McCarthy was heading to the Odawa Boat launch at the time.

McCarthy was arrested at the scene for operating under the influence. He submitted to a Breathalyzer test at the scene and blew a 0.192, according to the police report. It is illegal to drive a car or boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.

Both boats and the piling sustained significant damage, Westveer said.

River’s Edge Yacht Club President Joe Prinzi said the 12- to 14-inch piling snapped in half in the crash and the boat was pushed into the dock. 

Prinzi said that the owner’s insurance provider considered the docked boat a total loss. It was valued at between $40,000 and $45,000.

The cost to fix the broken piling and damaged dock was almost $5,000, Prinzi said.

Prinzi said the club had never had anything like this happen since the marina opened in 1987. The only other incident was when a drunken boater, who was a member of the club, tried to pull into the wrong slip and damaged Prinzi’s boat.

Bridgette Bergs said that she and her husband, Andrijs, were asleep on their boat when it was struck by the Power Quest.

“I was thrown out of my bed,” Bridgette said. 

She checked with her husband, then walked up to the deck and found everything was thrown around and a broken water hose spraying all over the place. 

Bridgette said she is so traumatized by the event that she won’t step back on a boat again. They have not replaced their boat either, she said.

“I’ve been in counseling,” she said. “I don’t have any desire to be on a boat again. Thirty-five years in boating and now it’s ruined.”

Bridgette said she was glad that their young children were not on board at the time of the crash.

The impact caused a mounted television to break off and land on the children’s bunks. Eight cans of pop flew out of the refrigerator and exploded in the same area, she said.

“It’s very disturbing,” Bridgette said.

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