Marco Corbin had the world by the tail.
A gifted athlete, musician and student, the 18-year-old was only a few months out of high school in Mission, B.C., when he and some friends made the trip east for summer fun on Osoyoos Lake.
But the fun came to a tragic end just after sunset on Aug. 16, 2011, when the tube on which Corbin and two buddies were being towed was run over by another boat. Corbin was rushed back to shore where paramedics and bystanders tried in vain to revive him.
One year later, a criminal investigation continues but no one has been charged. Police have said little to the public or the family, although details of the investigation are contained in court documents (see story below).
RCMP Cpl. Mike Field, the primary investigator, acknowledged the probe has been a lengthy one, but noted that fatalities are never routine.
“It takes time to conduct these investigations because you have to make sure you get it right,” he said.
Field said police are still considering charges against the drivers of both boats: dangerous or impaired operation of a vessel causing death against the operator of the boat that hit Corbin; and criminal negligence causing death against the operator of the boat that was towing Corbin.
The corporal said he is almost ready to send away a second batch of biological samples for testing, and expects to have a report to Crown ready in the next few months once those lab results are back.
“I understand that police can only tell you so much and sometimes it’s nothing because they say everything’s under investigation, so we’re just waiting,” said Corbin’s mom, Elena Di Giovanni, from the family home in Mission.
The eldest of three sons, Corbin was an “outstanding scholar, friend, brother, boyfriend, everything,” his mother said. He also fronted the Corbin Brothers musical trio, a group that performed an eclectic mix of ska, rock and jazz throughout the Fraser Valley.
He was “every mother’s dream of a perfect son,” Di Giovanni said. “The kind of kid who was always, always doing something.”
She balked when he first asked permission to head to Osoyoos Lake to stay at a friend’s grandparent’s cabin.
“We’d never let him go anywhere on his own where there hadn’t been more adult supervision,” Di Giovanni recalled.
But Corbin eventually got his wish, leaving behind a mom who was worried most about the teens safely navigating the highways en route to Osoyoos. She couldn’t imagine what was about to come next: “It’s every parents nightmare. You get a knock on the door at 2 o’clock in the morning and it’s just shocking. And it’s still shocking.”
Di Giovanni said she has only spoken to investigators through a liaison at the RCMP detachment in Mission. She did, however, receive a card through police from a group of females who were on the boat that hit her son and swam over to the tow boat to try to help. Di Giovanni said she spoke to the girls by phone and thanked them for their efforts, and wished to extend the same thanks to anyone else who tried to help that night.
She also praised the coroner who examined her son and reported to her there were no drugs or alcohol in his body. Di Giovanni has not spoken to the driver of the boat that hit her son and did not even know his name until told by the Western News. Police said in a press release a few days after the incident that the driver was a 27-year-old Alberta man.
“It was no one’s intention to set out and kill somebody,” Di Giovanni said. “These are tragic accidents.”
Court documents suggest alcohol, a lack of proper navigation lights and non-compliance with boating regulations on the part of both operators may have been factors in the crash.
“Common sense would have prevented this, and that’s the tragedy. It wasn’t a tsunami, it was an accident that could have been prevented,” Di Giovanni said.
If there is to be a court process, she will wait for it to end before doing whatever she can to help spare another family from the pain hers has endured.
“It’s impossible for police to man all those lakes. People have to take more responsibility,” Di Giovanni said. “But perhaps if fines were really, really more stringent and imposed, people would think twice before they make bad decisions.”
RCMP spell out details of investigation in applications for search warrants
Details of the police investigation into the Aug. 16, 2011, death of 18-year-old Marco Corbin are contained in two court documents police filed with their applications to obtain search warrants.
Called an information to obtain (ITO), the application is a sworn statement by a police officer in which he spells out the grounds on which a warrant should be granted by the court. However, witness statements given to police and included in the ITOs are not sworn and therefore not considered as reliable as court testimony.
RCMP Const. Joseph Bayda was granted two separate warrants in the Corbin case.
The first was authorized Aug. 18, 2011, and allowed police to search the boat that struck and killed Corbin, which was operated by Ryan William Symington, according to the ITO. The warrant allowed the seizure of DNA samples, beer cans, lights, electronics and other items “that would provide evidence to the operation of the vessel.”
Bayda wrote in his application that Symington was taken to the Osoyoos RCMP detachment around 11 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2011, and that Symington “appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.” About an hour later, breath samples taken at the Oliver detachment showed Symington’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, according to the ITO.
After spending the night in jail and being warned of his rights, Symington told Bayda he was driving the boat at the time of the incident and said that although he saw the other vessel, he did not see the tube behind it. Symington also told the officer he didn’t realize at first that he had hit anything, and later became scared when he learned someone had been injured, Bayda wrote.
Symington is now working overseas, according to his father, and could not be reached for comment.
Tyra Leamoal, who was on Symington’s boat, told police the sun was going down when she spotted another boat with a green light visible coming towards them. Leamoal said both vessels were going fast and she saw the tube just before Symington’s boat hit it.
Leamoal told police that Symington initially did not want to go back to the scene after the accident and said at one point, “Don’t call the cops,” according to the documents. She said Symington relented, and she and two other females swam over to the other boat to offer help. Leamoal also said occupants of the tow boat were throwing beer cans into the lake as they headed back to shore.
The driver of the boat towing Corbin and two other friends on the tube is named in the ITO as Cole Delorme.
Moments before the incident, Delorme heard someone on the tube yell, “What’s that?,” then noticed a white boat about 10 metres away, according to the ITO. He said he “pinned it” to try to get the tube clear.
Delorme also said his boat had only its front navigation lights on, that he knew he should have had a spotter but didn’t, and that he shouldn’t have been towing people after dark, according to the ITO. Delorme told police the other boat did not have any lights visible.
A breathalyzer test a few hours after the incident detected no alcohol in Delorme’s system, Bayda wrote.
The second warrant, authorized April 11, 2012, allowed police to seize blood samples taken from Corbin during a post-mortem examination to determine if his DNA matches that found in “biological samples” on Symington’s boat during execution of the first warrant.