Teen avoids jail for drunken pontoon crash

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The young woman who was celebrating high school graduation by drinking on a pontoon boat before crashing into a bridge pillar, injuring three passengers, will not go to jail.

Hayley Gorski appeared in Kent County Circuit Court Tuesday, where she was sentenced to 30 months of probation and more than $16,000 in restitution to the victims and insurers of the passengers injured.

The crash happened in the early evening on May 17 after a group of teens had been out on the Thornapple River all afternoon, according to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. The boat crashed into a large pillar under the M-6 overpass in Cascade Township. Three teens were thrown into the water, causing one head injury and broken bones.

In August, Gorski pleaded guilty to operating a boat while intoxicated causing injury, a felony charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Hayley Gorski
Hayley Gorski stands next to her attorney during her sentencing in Kent County Circuit Court, Judge Paul Sullivan presiding, on Oct. 15, 2019.

But in court Tuesday, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan said the victims in the crash had asked for leniency and he speculated that Gorski, a Forest Hills Central graduate, was likely not the only person drinking.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, the 18-year-old Gorski will not have a felony conviction on her record if she complies with the restrictions of her probation — which includes not having any alcohol and staying out of bars — and she doesn’t get into legal trouble again.

At the hearing, Gorski told the judge how hard the situation has been for her and muttered a brief apology to the people she hurt.

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