Woman who lost arm in boat incident says she is ‘a shell of who I was’

BOSTON, MA - 6/02/2015: NAUT GUILTY tied up on a dock in Charlestown... Benjamin Urbelis, 33, of Charlestown was allegedly operating a 29-foot boat named Naut Guilty when a woman fell overboard into Boston Harbor Saturday evening. As she tried to get back on the boat, her arm became caught in the propeller,(David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo) SECTION: METRO TOPIC
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file 2015
At the time of the incident, Nicole Berthiaume was a guest on the Naut Guilty.

The woman whose right arm was severed in a 2015 boating incident on Boston Harbor gave emotional testimony in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday, detailing how the injury has altered her life.

“The things that made me, me were gone,” Nicole Berthiaume wrote in a victim impact statement released by Suffolk County prosecutors. “My penmanship that I took such pride in, going for a drive, swinging a golf club, throwing the football, even taking a shower by myself.”

Berthiaume made the statement during a lobby conference in the case of Alexander Williams, who prosecutors allege was operating the boat at the time of the incident.


Attempts to contact Berthiaume’s family Thursday night were unsuccessful.

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At the time of the incident, Berthiaume was a 19-year-old guest on the Naut Guilty, a boat owned by Benjamin Urbelis, a Boston defense attorney and night club promoter.

Prosecutors allege Williams and Urbelis led a group of 14 people, including a few underage women, for a night of drinking and socializing on Boston Harbor on May 30, 2015.

Williams is charged with negligent operation of a boat, furnishing alcohol to minors, and tampering with evidence, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Urbelis is also facing charges, and his case is pending in Suffolk Superior Court, Wark said.


Williams is due back in court next Thursday. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Williams was allegedly operating the boat when Berthiaume was swimming in the water, making her way back to the vessel as it drifted near Spectacle Island.

Urbelis, the only person capable of operating the boat, was also in the water at the time, prosecutors allege.

Williams put the boat in reverse, and Berthiaume was pulled under as she tried to come back aboard. Williams’s attorneys have said he thought she was drowning and was trying to help her.

In her statement, Berthiaume recalled waking up the next day in a hospital room with injuries to her abdomen, knees, back, and arms. She was in the hospital for two weeks before she went to a rehabilitation center.


“It wasn’t until then that I realized that although my mind was the same, I was not,” Berthiaume said. “I was a shell of a human being. A shell of who I was.”

She also spoke of the financial toll from her medical bills and the challenges of her disability.

“You will rarely hear me complain about the incident, and you will almost never hear me complain about my disability,” she said. “But that does not mean that it doesn’t kill me every time I look in the mirror, drop something, or accept help from someone.”

Berthiaume recommended Williams be sentenced to community service and an alcohol awareness course.

“It is important to understand that the mistakes made that day were avoidable,” she said. “Yes, freak accidents happen all the time. But this was not a freak accident. This was an incident created by wrongdoings, an incident created by negligence.”

Dylan McGuinness can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.