Editorial: Boat crash sentence a wakeup call

Horrors of driving under influence of drugs, alcohol hit home
Charlotte McCue.
Charlotte McCue.

It’s easy to get complacent, and even a bit anesthetized, to news of fatal car crashes involving drugs and alcohol.

It happens often enough that maybe the message stops sinking in unless it directly affects us.

That’s why Monday’s sentencing in a fatal boat crash involving drugs and alcohol can serve as the fresh slap in the face many of us need to remind us of the consequences.

Alexander West — a clean-cut, handsome young white man from a well-to-do Lake George-area family — will spend the next 5 to 15 years in prison for driving the speedboat that crashed into another on Lake George last July.

The crash claimed the life of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, whom her mother described as a “spectacular, freckly-faced firecracker.”

West was under the influence of alcohol and drugs — marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine — when he got in the driver’s seat of his boat and drove it recklessly down the lake that evening after spending the day at a drunken boat party.

Several of his friends were in the boat with him. They didn’t stop him, and they later helped him attempt to avoid responsibility for the crime.

At West’s sentencing on Monday, Charlotte’s mother gave heart-wrenching account of the impact the crash has had on her family, saying a part of her died that night.

She said her other children who were on the boat that day, 10-year-old Madison and 4-year-old Cooper, will never get over seeing their sister’s dead body ripped to shreds by the force of the crash.

In calling for the maximum sentence for West, she acknowledged that his family’s lives had been ruined as well. 

There’s no doubt West deserved to be punished for his crime, and the sentence was appropriate, although for Charlotte’s family, it will never be enough. It’s difficult to feel sorry for someone whose actions were so reckless that they caused this level of devastation.

But it’s a strong reminder to those who might decide to act with similar disregard for others that his life and that of his family and friends also were destroyed that day by his horrible lapse of  judgment.

This is the aftermath of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boat or a car, a motorcycle or an ATV.

Operating a vehicle while under the influence of any substance that inhibits your judgment and your ability to react to critical situations has enormous consequences.

Death. Devastation. Lives ruined forever, the lives of the innocent and the lives of the guilty. Unimaginable grief.

Charlotte McCue is dead, Alexander West is in prison and their families will never be the same.

Look at that face in the photo.

This is what happens.

This is our wakeup call.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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