Couple die in McHenry boat crash; neighbors describe helping at scene after boat landed in yard

Neighbors lifted watercraft off man who later died

A boat on the Fox River crashed onto land and almost hit a house on the 600 block of Country Club Drive in McHenry on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

Editor’s Note: An update on this story is available here.

A husband and wife from McHenry were killed Saturday when their boat left the Fox River and hit the shoreline before it flipped over, separating the hull from the rest of the boat, according to state officials.

Officials from the Illinois Conservation Police said a 62-year-old man and a 61-year-old woman were killed. Their names were not released.

The boat, Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Jayette Bolinski said, “traveled about 73 feet from the shoreline before coming to rest on land. The hull of the boat was separated into two pieces.”

Witnesses reported the boat was “traveling very fast up and down the Fox River south of the Snuggery Restaurant ... weaving back and forth across the water,” Bolinski said in a news release.

Just before the crash, Bob Letmonkski heard a boat speed by his dock, heading north toward a bend in the Fox River near the Snuggery.

He, his wife and another friend then saw the boat veer away from the guardrail along McHenry’s River Road, turn hard to the left and head back south.

They watched as the boat hit the shore across the river from their home, Letmonkski said. The boat seemed to be rocking back and forth before hitting the shore.

“My theory was that [someone] was fighting for control of the boat” perhaps due to a medical emergency, Letmonkski said.

The crash occurred about 5:40 p.m. on the 600 block of Country Club Drive. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene and the man died later at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Bolinski said.

The view from Bob Letmonkski's deck on Mineral Springs Drive, looking across the Fox River on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. He and other family members watched Saturday at a boat hit the shore next to the blue house and flipped, killing the two people aboard.

The first 911 call came from the friend who was boating with them that day, Letmonkski said.

Owners of the house where the boat landed were not home at the time of the crash.

Next-door neighbor Connor Lively was. He was playing guitar in his room “when I heard a big boom” and ran outside with his cellphone in hand.

He and other neighbors tried to lift the boat off the two people trapped underneath, Lively said. His father, James Lively, said they were able to get a man out from under the craft. A woman, they said, was completely covered by the boat.

Rescue crews from the McHenry Township Fire Protection District were at the scene within minutes, Connor Lively said, and took over rescue operations.

Heidi Quast lives a few doors down from the crash site. It was the second time this year, the third in recent memory, where a boat has crashed in that section of the river, she said.

On Labor Day, a pontoon boat ran into the guardrail and up onto River Road. The driver, Dagoberto Villarreal-Galvan, 49, of Wadsworth, was charged with careless operation of a watercraft and operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol.

“We jumped in our boat and called 911″ for that crash, Quast said.

That portion of the Fox River is relatively narrow, but widens at a sharp bend just past her house, Quast said. “It is people who don’t know the river … who don’t know where they are going” who are likely to crash there.

The river was very busy for the last day in September, with unseasonably high temperatures and a “River Shiver” event in Fox Lake that brought boaters out.

Video footage posted from a Nest camera on showed the boat speeding across the river and into a house.

The boat, a 33-foot Cobalt, was removed from the scene on Sunday morning, Sgt. Eric Schreiber of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police said. Little evidence of the crash remained, other than a deep scar on the shore and one broken post on the home’s deck railing.