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  • FOX 17 News West Michigan

    'It’s horrific': Driver in deadly Swan Boat Club crash breaks her silence

    By Ruta Ulcinaite,


    The driver in the deadly Swan Boat Club crash, Marshella Chidester, sat down exclusively with 7 News Detroit to share what happened from her point of view after she ran her car into a children’s birthday party in April. She says there are two sides to every story and wanted to speak publicly about the incident for the first time.

    Chidester, 66, says she’s disturbed by the incident, has been praying for the victims and claims it was all one big accident caused by her plethora of medical conditions.

    “I just want people to know how very, very disturbed I am by the situation. I don’t remember what happened. I can only say that I’ve been praying for everyone that’s been injured,” Chidester told us at her home, which is just feet from the boat club.

    Hear more from Chidester in the video player below:

    Video extra: Swan Boat Club driver in deadly crash speaks out

    On April 20, prosecutors claim Chidester was under the influence of alcohol and drove her car into the boat club, killing two siblings , 4-year-old Zayn and 8-year-old Alanah Phillips. Over a dozen others were injured. Family of Zayn and Alanah Phillips.
    Undated courtesy photos of Zayn and Alanah Phillips.

    Chidester is charged with multiple charges including second-degree murder and operating under the influence causing death.

    She refutes the charges and claims the entire incident was one horrible medical episode gone wrong. WXYZ
    Marshella Chidester, the driver in the deadly crash at Swan Boat Club in Berlin Township, talks exclusively with 7 News Detroit on May 16, 2024.

    “I would never ever do anything intentional — never. I mean, that’s just not me, especially to a boat club that I love so much, and I have family and friends there,” Chidester said.

    Chidester, who is an Army veteran, is a longtime member of the club and even had her wedding there.

    She claims she doesn’t remember anything that led to the crash due to her neuropathy and heart problems. She also says she has a history of seizures and her memory goes out during her episodes, which is what she says believes happened that day. She hadn't driven after her latest seizure in October. After six months seizure-free she felt comfortable getting behind the wheel when she believes it happened again April 20.

    “I think I had a seizure,” Chidester said. “I think when I got in the car, that’s what happened — had the seizure, put my foot on the accelerator and into the building.”

    Chidester talks more about the medical conditions in the video player below:

    Video extra: Driver in Swan Boat Club deadly crash says medical emergency led up to tragedy

    The prosecution disagrees and made that clear in her arraignment a few weeks back.

    “There was a preliminary breath test done, which indicated that her blood alcohol level was significantly over the legal limit,” prosecuting attorney Jeffery Yorkey said during Chidester’s arraignment.

    VIDEO: Zayn and Alanah Phillips' aunt speaks at Chidester's arraignment

    Aunt of 2 kids killed in Swan Boat Club crash speaks at the arraignment of suspect

    We reached out to the Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough to get Chidester's toxicology reports, but were told nothing related to the case is being released at this time.

    Chidester told us she has a perfect driving record.

    “I don’t even have a parking ticket. I don’t have any kind of DUI or speeding ticket. I was just devastated,” she said.

    Chidester's attorney, Bill Colovos, said that she wouldn't answer any questions about her alcohol use or what led up to her getting in her car that day because she cannot speak to things she does not remember.

    Colovos explains why he stopped Chidester from answering questions about alcohol in the video below:

    Attorney of driver in deadly Swan Boat Club crash talks about case

    "She has no memory and I don't want her, my client, or anyone to testify or to make statements based on what other people have told her," Colovos said.

    Chidester posted her $1.5 million bond three weeks ago and remains at her home with an ankle monitor.

    That is a point the families of the victims are heartbroken about as they continue to grieve the situation.

    VIDEO: Families of Swan Boat Club crash victims come together to remember the lives lost

    Families of Swan Boat Club crash victims come together to remember the lives lost

    “Has the severity sunk in of those two children losing their lives?” we asked Chidester.

    “Oh gosh, yes. I pray for them every day. I can’t imagine. It’s horrific. And what’s even more horrific for me is I wake up every day and I can’t remember," she responded through tears.

    Chidester is due back in court in June 27 for a preliminary exam, where a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence for her to stand trial.

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