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Dead child’s family alleges negligence, ‘party-like atmosphere’ on Petite Lake

Tony Borcihis sister Kaeleigh

Tony Borcia and his sister Kaeleigh

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Updated: October 22, 2013 3:14AM

The family of the 10-year-old Libertyville boy killed while tubing on Petite Lake last summer has added the Fox Waterway Agency and a Grass Lake Road marina as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit originally filed last December.

Libertyville attorney Matthew Dudley, who is representing the family of Tony Borcia, said Wednesday, Aug. 21, that the decision to add the new parties stems from concerns about boating safety on Petite Lake.

“They don’t have any rules out there, basically,” Dudley said. “They have no daytime speed restrictions, they have no restrictions on the size of boats.”

Dudley added that “it’s our position that if the Fox Waterway Agency is doing its job, Petite Lake would be safe,” which could have saved Borcia from being struck and killed by a 29-foot speedboat motoring in excess of 40 mph.

The operator of that boat, Bartlett resident David Hatyina, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison.

Hatyina and a woman on board with him that day, Renee Melbourn, were named in the original complaint and remain as defendants in the amended motion, which was filed in Lake County Circuit Court earlier this month.

The suit claims that the waterway agency is required by state law to “implement reasonable programs and adopt necessary and reasonable ordinances and rules to improve and maintain the waterways for the purposes of boating, water skiing, and other recreational purposes.”

The suit added that, “with an utter indifference and/or conscious disregard for the safety of individuals on the Chain of Lakes, specifically Petite Lake,” the agency failed to properly implement speed and boat-length restrictions in light of “the existing culture of the waterways.”

The lawsuit alleges that the culture on Petite Lake is one “where individuals commonly anchor boats and consume excessive amounts of alcohol and engage in a general party-like atmosphere, which is not conducive to recreational tubing with children.”

Spring Lake Marina, where the Borcia family rented a pontoon boat for tubing on the day of the accident, is accused in the suit of being negligent in not warning them about safety hazards on Petite Lake.

The lawsuit alleges that the lake was the location of 11 accidents resulting in nine injuries since 2009, representing more than 20 percent of all boating accidents on the Chain during that time.

Fox Waterway Agency executive director Ron Barker said Thursday, Aug. 22, that “it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.” An official with the marina also declined comment.

The lawsuit names the agency and marina in five counts each and seeks in excess of $50,000 plus costs for each count.

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