Family of boy killed in boating wreck sues waterway agency

The family of a 10-year-old Libertyville boy who was killed in a 2012 boating wreck on Petite Lake is suing the Fox Waterway Agency, citing that it failed to establish rules and regulations for safe boating.

Tony Borcia was killed July 28, 2012, after he fell out of an inflatable tube and was struck by another boater. The boater, David Hatyina, pleaded guilty to having cocaine in his system at the time of the incident and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Borcia family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in December against Hatyina and Renee Melbourn, who was a passenger in the boat.

The Borcia family has filed an amended wrongful death lawsuit to include the Fox Waterway Agency, as well as Spring Lake Marina, which directed Tony’s father, Jim Borcia, to Petite Lake.

The lawsuit is seeking more than $250,000 in damages.

“We’re not just seeking money,” said Margaret Borcia, Tony’s mother. “One of the ways you bring about change is to make someone pay money for something they did.”

Margaret Borcia said the lake should have had daytime speed limits, and the lake should have had more signs informing boaters that it is unsafe to use an inflatable tube.

“People always say we shouldn’t have been tubing there in the first place,” she said. “There’s no way my husband should’ve known that. He’s never been there before.”

The family is suing Spring Lake Marina for $50,000 for not detailing the dangers of tubing on Petite Lake. Since 2009, Petite Lake has been the site of more than 20 percent of the boating accidents and injuries on the entire Chain O’ Lakes system, according to the lawsuit.

Along with seeking $50,000 from both Hatyina and Melbourn, the family is seeking $50,000 from the Fox Waterway Agency for each family member present on the boat.

Wayne Blake, chairman of the Fox Waterway, said he feels sorry for the family of Tony Borcia but believes the waterway should not be held responsible for the 10-year-old’s death.

“It’s unfortunate; I really feel bad for the Borcia family,” Blake said. “But I think most of these suits here are based on emotion and not reality.”

Blake said the waterway is not a policing body, and it is not responsible for enforcing boating rules on the lake. He said the Lake County sheriff, the McHenry County sheriff and the Illinois Department of Conservation were all present on the day Tony Borcia was killed, and any enforcement of rules by the waterway agency would not have saved his life.

“I don’t care how many rules or laws you make. Something that’s an accident like that can’t be avoided,” he said.

The Borcia family disagrees and hopes the court will find that the waterway agency should establish daytime boating speed limits, restrict the size of boats allowed on the waterway and establish areas where people can safely tube.

“We’ll fight it like anybody would fight any kind of a lawsuit,” Blake said. “We’ll see what the court says. We’ll abide whatever we’re told to do.”

Margaret Borcia said she and her family have substantial medical bills and have been in and out of the hospital for psychiatric care as a result of last year’s tragedy. But the hardest part, she said, regardless of the court outcome, is the constant reminder of the loss of her son.

“It’s been extremely hard,” she said. “Especially having my children seeing it. They’re struggling in school. They’re having flashbacks. ... It’s been a horrific thing.”

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