Mass. man sent to jail for fatal boat crash

By Laura Crimaldi
Associated Press / July 9, 2011

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NEWPORT, R.I. - A boat mechanic who was piloting a speeding boat that crashed last year and killed two women was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday during an emotional hearing in which he apologized to the victims’ families.

Matthew Fortin, 28, of New Bedford, pleaded no contest and was sentenced in Newport Superior Court to serve three years in prison and three years in home confinement.

“I’m sorry every day since this happened, and I’ll be sorry for the rest of my life,’’ Fortin said.

The 22-foot vessel Miss Jess crashed at a high speed in the early hours of May 16, 2010, into a rocky Narragansett Bay outcropping known as Despair Island, killing Alesia Ann DeSa of Dighton, Mass., and Kaylee Therrien of Freetown, Mass., both 23. Another mechanic, Joel Mayer, was also seriously injured. Fortin was legally drunk at the time of the crash, said Assistant Attorney General Jay Sullivan.

Fortin and Mayer, who had both worked on the vessel’s engine replacement, sneaked with the women onto the boat in Portsmouth at about 11:30 p.m. for what its owner has called an unauthorized “midnight joyride.’’

As the boat traveled across Narragansett Bay after leaving East Greenwich, Fortin was speeding and had only the light of the Newport Bridge to go by when the vessel crashed on rocks between Prudence and Hope Islands, Sullivan said.

Fortin also has a checkered driving history, brought up yesterday in a statement by Therrien’s mother, Beverly.

“Is safety on the waterways any less important than safety on the highways?’’ said the statement, which an attorney read to the court.

Fortin picked up a second drunken driving charge in 2008, after which his vehicle was equipped for two years with a device that prevented him from driving a car while under the influence of alcohol, his Massachusetts driving record shows.