Teens’ sentence in dune fire: $6.6 million restitution

Teens’ sentence in dune fire: $6.6 millionrestitution

3 November 2007

published by www.mlive.com

Allegan, USA —

Joe Lacombe expected his son to get jail time and community service for his rolein a Lakeshore dune fire that destroyed three expensive homes.

It was the $6.6 million in restitution that came out of the blue.

“I don’t understand that amount of money,” he said after his son,Matthew, and two other teens were sentenced Friday in Allegan County CircuitCourt to 90 days of jail, to be served on weekends, 300 hours of communityservice and two years of probation.

The restitution is likely to be an issue worked out among the homeowners’insurance companies representing the teens, under per sonal liability provisions,and those of the burned-out residents.

“They are already communicating back and forth, I believe,” saidAllegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson, de scribing the sky-high restitutionvalue as something he has not seen before in Allegan County.

The $6.6 million is the total replacement value of the homes, the contentsand anything else insured on the prop erties, but not the land value, Andersonsaid. Minor damage to a fourth home and surrounding landscaping also wasincluded in the number.

Judge George Corsiglia said the restitution would be “subject to review”until defense attorneys can review insurance documents and make any objections.

In court, Matthew Lacombe, Kyle Sova and Thomas Starback II, all 18, offeredapologies to the victims who lost homes when they lit fireworks at a campsitejust north of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park in Laketown Township.

They intended to shoot them into Lake Michigan, but strong winds blew themback into dune grass and a fire erupted that spread over 50 acres and destroyedthe Spring Beauty Lane homes of former state Rep. Jessie Dalman and her husband,Ron, as well as John and Barbara Myaard, and Libby Boven. Construction has begunon new homes on the Dalman and Myaard properties.

The teens told their attorneys they rushed to put out the dune fire when itstarted, but it grew too rapidly. They tried to call 911 but were out of cellphone range on the dune and, by the time they ran back to their car, they couldhear fire crews on the way.

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