SANTA ROSA COUNTY — A man was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison Tuesday following a drunken boat crash that left two passengers with severe brain injuries.
Brandon Hartjen pleaded no contest to the charges in May, according to a press release from the Office of State Attorney First Judicial Circuit of Florida. He will serve 116.2 months in prison for two counts of operating a boat under the influence causing serous bodily injury and one county of leaving the scene of a vessel accident involving injury.
The charges stemmed from a boat crash, which occurred at approximately 8 p.m. on March 4, 2018, under the Bob Sikes Bridge, the press release said. Hartjen, while under the influence of alcohol, crashed a 27-foot Cobia fishing vessel into the fender system of the bridge. The impact caused severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, to two of the passengers on board.
After the crash, Hartjen piloted the vessel away from the scene, the press release said. Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission observed Hartjen at the helm operating the vessel in Escambia County waters without the required navigational lights on display.
It was determined Hartjen was heading to the Mahogany Mill boat ramp in Bayou Chico. The passengers were unconscious. Without FWC’s intervention and subsequent emergency medical treatment, it is unlikely they would have survived the crash.
A legal blood draw authorized by warrant returned a result showing Hartjen’s blood alcohol content to be .15, nearly twice the legal limit.
The case was investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.