By Lisa Black and Erin Meyer, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — The powerboat was speeding straight toward Tony Borcia as the 10-year-old bobbed in the water in his life jacket.
Horrified, three of the boy’s siblings and his father — who had been driving a pontoon towing his son on an inner tube on a hot July day on busy Petite Lake near Lake Villa, Ill. — waved and yelled for the driver to stop. But the boater struck the boy, who was killed.
Tuesday, authorities alleged that the man driving the boat had alcohol and cocaine in his system when the crash occurred. If that is proved in court, the boy’s death will be tallied among the grim statistics showing that fatalities resulting from drunken boaters have risen steadily over the past five years in Illinois, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
David Hatyina, 50, of Bartlett, Ill., made his first appearance in Lake County court Tuesday on charges of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, and Judge George Bridges set his bond at $1 million. He was arrested Monday night at O’Hare International Airport after arriving home from a previously planned trip to Cancun, Mexico, where, his lawyer said, he attended the wedding of his girlfriend’s daughter. The lawyer, Frank Howard, extended condolences to Tony’s relatives and called the crash “a tragic incident for all families concerned.”
Howard noted that his client had not yet been charged when he left the country and said Hatyina was “shocked by the whole matter.”
Thousand of mourners turned out Aug. 1 for the visitation for the Illinois boy, who would have started fifth grade at Butterfield School in Libertyville this fall.
In the courtroom Tuesday, Tony’s family members clutched each other and wept quietly. Several wore buttons bearing the child’s photograph.
Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz told the judge that Tony had been riding on an inner tube with his 12-year-old sister late in the afternoon July 28 when he fell off the tube. As his father, Jim Borcia, turned the pontoon around to retrieve him, he noticed a large white boat “flying down the middle of the lake and bearing down on his son,” authorities said in a news release.
A prepared statement from the family called the crash — witnessed by Tony’s father, brother and two sisters — “a scene that was so horrific that it cannot be described in words. Then, Jim had to call Tony’s mom, Margaret, while she was at home alone, and tell her that her baby boy was dead.”
Officials said Hatyina accompanied authorities to a hospital, where his blood was drawn for testing about four hours after the crash.
A forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police crime laboratory used a principle called retrograde extrapolation to calculate that Hatyina’s blood-alcohol content at the time of the incident was 0.09 percent to 0.128 percent, establishing that Hatyina was over the legal limit, Fisz said.
The lab also concluded that Hatyina ingested cocaine within hours before the incident, Fisz said.
Police interviewed another boater who reported seeing a boat matching the description of Hatyina’s powerboat speeding and driving recklessly earlier that day, the prosecutor said.
At least 25 articles were retrieved as evidence from his 29-foot Baja Outlaw pleasure boat, authorities said.
Hatyina has no prior felony convictions, authorities said. Court records show he accumulated at least a half-dozen speeding tickets since the mid-1999s.
His attorney said Hatyina has worked 24 years as a production manager for a Carol Stream, Ill., company. Upon learning the news Tuesday of Hatyina’s arrest, his ex-wife and mother of their 8-year-old daughter could only say, “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.”
Tony’s family members declined comment after the hearing beyond their prepared statement, which said the boy’s death “turned our world upside down and changed our lives forever.”
Petite Lake, off Illinois Highway 59, is part of the Chain O’ Lakes in Lake and McHenry counties.
There, drinking is part of the boating culture, said Capt. Neal Serdar of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, who oversees a region including the Chain O’ Lakes and Lake Michigan.
“They party on the lake,” Serdar said. “If there are bars and restaurants around (a lake), that’s going to be one of the things people do. But I don’t think the Chain O’ Lakes is different than any other lake. Yes, there have been some horrific accidents, but with the number of boats out there, I don’t think there has been more than any other lake.”
He added that no law prohibits people from drinking and driving a boat. “There is a law that says you cannot drive a boat when you are intoxicated,” he said.