Drunk boater gets 5 years for deaths on St. Clair River

Associated Press

Port Huron — A drunken Clinton Township boater was sentenced to at least five years in prison Tuesday for a crash that killed two people near Harsens Island in St. Clair County.

Brandon Verfaillie, 32, said he deeply regrets what happened last August when a speedboat smashed into a cabin cruiser in a channel of the St. Clair River. Relatives of the victims said the tragedy will linger.

“I want you to appreciate that I never got to say goodbye to my wife,” Robert Axford said in court. His wife, Nancy Axford, 68, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Robert Koontz, 52, of Chesterfield Township were killed.

Verfaillie will be eligible for parole after five years. His maximum sentence is 15 years in prison. The Port Huron Times Herald said he was led out of court in handcuffs.

A third person was injured.

“If he could take back what happened on that day he would,” defense attorney James Thomas said. “It’s easy to demonize someone who’s involved with a case like this.”

Verfaillie’s driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, St. Clair County Judge Michael West said.

“It was clearly preventable on multiple fronts and it is a shame that things happened the way that they happened,” he said of the crash.