A 41-year-old Wood River man has been sentenced to 18 months probation for boating under the influence of alcohol in a crash that killed two North Carolina brothers on the Sherman County Reservoir near Loup City in July of 2011.
Emotions were high in the Sherman County District courtroom Friday morning as Brian Packer faced the judge to find out his sentence.
The parents of Joshua Rowley, 12, and Matthew McAlexander, 19, of Kernersville, North Carolina, took the stand and read tearful statements to the judge about the final moments of their sons' lives.
Joshua and Matthew – who were in Nebraska for a family reunion – were riding on a tube being pulled by a boat on the Sherman County Reservoir on July 3, 2011, when they collided with a pontoon boat, being driven by Packer.
Joshua was killed at the scene. His brother, Matthew, died two days later at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.
Prosecutors say Packer had a blood–alcohol level of .089 at the time of the crash – just above Nebraska's legal limit of .08.
Packer was initially charged with boating under the influence and two counts of manslaughter, but those manslaughter charges were dropped last November in exchange for Packer's 'no contest' plea to a misdemeanor BUI charge.
The victims' father, Jeremy Rowley, told the courtroom Friday of his son Joshua, "Nothing can prepare you to see your son lying on a pontoon boat with blood bubbling out of his mouth."
Lori Rowley, the victims' mother, said that investigators told the family if Packer's pontoon boat and the boys' tube would have had one more second of distance between them, her sons would still be alive today.
Packer's defense attorney told the courtroom Friday that his client wasn't at fault, because "The chief investigating officer concluded that alcohol had absolutely nothing to do with this accident."
He also blamed the driver of the other boat, saying he only has one eye and failed to follow the rules of the water.