Boat owner: RI crash that killed 2 women happened during unauthorized joyride by mechanics

By Michelle R. Smith, AP
Monday, May 17, 2010

RI boat crash kills 2; Owner calls it joyride

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Two boat mechanics and three others were on an unauthorized “midnight joyride” early Sunday when their boat slammed into a rocky outcropping, killing two women, the boat’s owner and the men’s employer told The Associated Press on Monday.

The two mechanics have worked for years for Maritime Solutions, an eight-employee boat engine repair shop in Portsmouth, but were not experienced boaters, shop-owner Richard Cromwell told the AP.

Cromwell also owns Freedom Boat Club, which owned the 22-foot Sea Ray involved in the Narragansett Bay crash. The shop had just replaced the boat’s engine, and the mechanics had access to it, he said.

“They decided to go for a midnight joyride, and obviously, a very, very sad ending to it all. Our hearts go out to the families,” he said. “They just had a major lapse of judgment.”

The boat left Greenwich Bay in Warwick around 1 a.m. Sunday, according to a preliminary investigation by the Department of Environmental Management. The vessel issued a distress call at about 1:50 a.m. after hitting the rocks on an outcropping known as Despair Island and flipping over.

Alesia Ann Desa, 23, of Dighton, Mass., and Kaylee Therrien, 23, of Assonet, Mass., were killed in the crash, the department said.

Therrien was a 2009 graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, where she majored in marketing, spokeswoman Lisa Pelosi said. The last update on her Facebook page from Saturday afternoon reads “Working.. Then cousin Joely is taking me for a boat ride.”

One of the mechanics who took the boat was identified by Cromwell as Joel Mayer. An e-mail sent to Mayer on Monday morning wasn’t immediately returned.

The Department of Environmental Management did not identify the other people on board, saying only that they were all injured and included a 25-year-old Massachusetts woman, a 25-year-old man from Rhode Island and a 27-year-old man from Massachusetts.

No criminal charges have been filed. The department said it would release the other boaters’ names only if they are arrested.

The department and the Rhode Island attorney general’s office were investigating.

Michael Healey, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, would not address whether the group had taken the boat without permission, saying it was part of the investigation. But he said that given the hour of the accident, they will look into whether alcohol was a factor.

Cromwell said one of the mechanics could handle boats, but he wouldn’t define either one of them as experienced boaters, calling them “far better mechanics than boat operators.”

“I’ve done a lot of boating over my years. It’s a different world out there at night. Visibility is very difficult. It’s not a place for amateurs,” he said.

Despair Island lies west of Prudence Island, and the Department of Environmental Management said it is sometimes underwater depending on the tides. Cromwell said he knew of it from the charts, but had never been there himself.

“It’s a place that people try to stay away from,” he said. “They clearly must have been confused as to where they were.”

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