Photos of Swan Boat Club crash aftermath released; more victims join lawsuit

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Photos inside the Swan Boat Club on Saturday, April 20, 2024 after a woman accused of being drunk drove into the building, killing two kids and injuring several others. (Provided by Marko Law)

An attorney representing the victims shared numerous photos showing the destruction inside the Swan Boat Club, left behind by a woman who drove about 25 feet into the building.

Two children, 4-year-old Zayn Phillips and his 8-year-old sister Alanah, were killed in the crash that took place on Saturday, April 20 in Monroe County. Several others were injured. The boat club was hosting a child's birthday party when Marshella Chidester barreled through one of the walls.

According to police, the 66-year-old woman from Newport was driving while drunk.

The victims' attorney, Jon Marko, said the aftermath looked like "a bomb went off" inside the building. 

Seven more victims have joined Mariah Dodds and her 11-year-old son Jayden –the mother and older brother of the siblings killed in the crash– in an ongoing lawsuit against Chidester, her insurance company, Verna’s Tavern that served her alcohol hours before the crash, and the Swan Boat Club itself.

"We intend to hold Swan Boat Club responsible, in part, for the damage that was caused based on the way that this facility was set up, the construction of the facility, the lack of any safety precautions whatsoever," Marko said. "Based on our investigation, and what we’ve seen, this was a dangerous set-up out at the Swan Boat Club, given the proximity of the facility to the road."

As seen in the photos, Chidester's SUV left behind a trail of debris, chairs and party favors. One picture even shows Chidester in a star-spangled hoodie, seated amongst the chaos. 

Witnesses say she tried to get away.

"The damage done to the families and the victims in this case, and Monroe County as a whole, is going to reverberate beyond our years," Marko said.

The lawsuit will help pay for medical expenses of the survivors, according to the attorney. That includes getting physical and psychiatric therapy.

"We believed, Marko Law, here at my firm, that we needed to act quickly on behalf of these victims, and there’s several reasons for that. Number one — a lot of these victims need medical care," the attorney said.

According to investigators, Chidester drank at Verna’s Tavern then left in her SUV. However, her attorney claims she only had one glass of wine at the tavern, hours before the crash.

Chidester was invited to the birthday party at the boat club. Video captured her in her vehicle, speeding down a dirt road before crashing into the building. 

Chidester was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury.

Only five days after her arrest, Chidester posted her $1.5 bond by hiring a bail bondsman to pay the full amount. She is now back home, wearing a tether. She is also required to refrain from driving or drinking alcohol, and had to forfeit her passport.

Michael Jones also spoke on behalf of the victims who filed the lawsuit.

"They just need some time to heal, as you can imagine, from these wounds. The injuries are severe," Jones said. "We will not go into details about what they are. They are getting the care that they need, but they just ask for continued prayers."

Swan Boat Club declined to comment on the lawsuit when FOX 2 reached out on Wednesday.


Marshella Chidester, Swan Boat Club suspect charged in siblings' deaths in court

The 66-year-old defendant posted a $1.5 million bond only five days after she appeared in court.

Several GoFundMe fundraisers have been created to help those who were injured during the crash. Donations can be made at the following links: