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Jail time for Duluth man in fatal boat crash

Brian Keith Deroche

A Duluth man who was drunk when he crashed his boat into a dock last summer, killing a friend on a lake near Cotton, was sentenced Thursday to one year in jail.

Brian Keith Deroche, 51, appeared for sentencing in State District Court in Virginia after pleading guilty in April to a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide in the July 22 crash that killed 54-year-old Ann Marie Delanghe of Burnsville, Minn.

Authorities said Deroche was operating the boat with a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit when he collided with a dock on Dinham Lake shortly before midnight, ejecting Delanghe and injuring two others.

Under the terms of a plea agreement with the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, 6th Judicial District Judge Gary Pagliaccetti stayed a 57-month prison term in favor of seven years of supervised probation.

But the judge denied a defense request to keep Deroche out of prison, imposing a year of local confinement, which could also be served at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center or on work release.

According to a criminal complaint:

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to 6818 Paulson Road, northeast of Cotton, on the report of a boat crash. Deputies learned four people were involved, but only three had made it back to shore.

After several minutes of searching, Delanghe was pulled from the water unresponsive and with no pulse. She was later pronounced dead at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.

Deputies said they learned Deroche was hiding in a closet at the lake property and tried to prevent the door from being opened. He eventually agreed to come out and it was discovered that he was bleeding from the head.

Deroche told a deputy he had been driving when the boat crashed into the dock and the deputy noted an odor of alcohol on Deroche. His wife confirmed he was driving the boat and said the three remaining occupants jumped into the water to search for Delanghe after discovering she was missing. She acknowledged that the group had been drinking, but said she did not believe it to be “excessive.”

A blood sample taken more than three hours after the incident placed Deroche’s blood-alcohol concentration at 0.143. Deroche and the two surviving passengers were treated and released from Essentia Health-Virginia.

After entering the guilty plea, defense attorneys David Keegan and Mikkel Long submitted nearly two dozen letters of support from community members in support of Deroche.

The attorneys said Deroche and Delanghe were close friends and that her grieving husband did not wish to see the defendant locked up.

“Mr. Deroche recognizes that nothing he does will ever bring Mrs. Delanghe back,” Keegan and Long wrote. “He is committed to living each and every day in a way that honors her memory.“