Brian Driscoll wanted to spend one final sunny day lounging on the beach at Lake Coeur d’Alene before leaving the Inland Northwest for good.
Instead, he watched helplessly as a runaway boat plowed into his young wife, pitching her limp body through the air like a rag doll.
“It was the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen,” he said Wednesday, hovering over Dawn Driscoll’s hospital bed. “She was thrown so far.”
Dawn Driscoll, 28, with the help of her husband, spent the last few seconds before the boat plowed into her saving her children from the same fate.
“I’m glad it hit me and not my kids or any of the other kids,” she said blearily. “I’m so glad.”
The Fourth of July accident was the latest hard luck to hit the family since it moved to Spokane hoping to start a new life.
Three men fell out of their 12-foot boat on Tuesday while spinning circles on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai County sheriff’s officials said. With no one piloting the craft, it careered almost 90 feet onto a crowded beach near North Idaho College.
None of the men was wearing a safety device that would have prevented the boat from speeding away without them, said sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Soumas.
The Driscolls moved from New Jersey to Spokane in February after Brian, a 30-year-old drywall worker, had lined up a construction job.
Hoping to save enough money to get a house in Coeur d’Alene, the couple and their four children set up temporary residence in a room at the West Wynn Motel in Spokane.
Settling in hasn’t been easy.
Shortly after moving, Dawn landed in the hospital with viral meningitis and a kidney infection. Then last week, problems with her wisdom teeth sent her through oral surgery.
With his wife in the hospital, Brian had to stay home with their children, making it hard for him to keep a job.
He was laid off before he was able to get insurance benefits.
“Things weren’t going all that well, so we decided to pack up and make the move back to New Jersey,” Brian Driscoll said.
But Driscoll said he didn’t want to leave without enjoying at least one day on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
So he, Dawn, and their four children headed to Coeur d’Alene Tuesday to sit by the water and watch the evening fireworks. The family laid out a blanket in the sand.
It was about 6:30 p.m. when Brian Driscoll saw the boat. As it neared, he realized it was heading straight for his daughters - Laura, 10, and Samantha, 3.
When the craft hit the shore, it seemed to fly through the air straight toward the family blanket, Brian said.
The boat barely missed his 7-year-old son Sean.
Brian Driscoll shoved his older daughter out of the way and picked the younger girl up, tossing her into a nearby sandpile, he said.
Dawn Driscoll grabbed 8-year-old Brian Jr. and shoved him out of the way. The boy said he watched his mother trip and fall down and then try to get up again.
“Brian reached for his mom and grabbed her hand and the boat just took her away,” the boy’s father said. “I wanted to get back for her but there wasn’t enough time.”
The boat struck Dawn on the right side of her body and head and then plowed another 40 or so feet up the beach until it rammed into a tree and stopped, said Sgt. Soumas.
“Samantha was crying ‘My mommy’s dead,” Brian Driscoll said as the young girl played nearby in her mother’s hospital room Wednesday.
At the hospital, Dawn Driscoll lay with one eye covered by a patch. A large blue bruise covered the upper part of one arm, and a red gash crossed her chin. Blood still clung to those teeth that had not been knocked out.
Gye St. Louis, 40, of Coeur d’Alene had been driving the comMemo: 12-foot rigboat with his son Louis, 17, and David Kilgore, 45, as passengers.
The three had been spinning circles in the water in Kidd Island Bay. All three were pitched out of the boat during one of the turns.
Another boater picked up St. Louis’ son, who was the only one not wearing a life jacket, and then tried to catch up to the pilotless boat. The driver was not able to catch up and the small rig sped at full throttle for more than two miles before it hit the beach.
Soumas said the small craft has a “kill” switch to shut off the engine and prevent such accidents. One end of a string is attached to the “kill” switch and the other end is supposed to be attached to the boat’s pilot. If the pilot goes overboard, the kill switch will be pulled and the boat will stop.
Soumas said none of the men in the boat had the string attached to them, even though they had fallen out of the boat earlier in the day.
Soumas said the pilot, St. Louis, had been drinking. His blood-alcohol level measured .08 - short of the .10 level that is considered legally intoxicated.
Sheriff’s officials expect to make a decision by Friday on whether to charge St. Louis with a crime, Soumas said.
Meanwhile, Dawn Driscoll is in severe pain. Brian Driscoll expects his wife will need some reconstructive surgery.
With no insurance, the bills are quickly stacking up.
“I’m just so glad nobody else got hurt,” Dawn said through puffy lips Wednesday. “There were so many kids around.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: How to help For those wanting to help the family, a trust fund has been set up at West One banks in Dawn Driscoll’s name.