Kevin Comardelle pleaded guilty recently to one count of vehicular homicide and four counts of negligent injuring stemming from a July 4, 2020 Bayou Gauche boating accident that claimed the life of 36-year-old Audrey Higgins and left six others injured.
Comardelle, 25, faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in January of 2023.
The scene at Luling’s 29th Judicial District Court was heavy in emotion, the room filled with Higgins’ family and friends as well as those of the five who were alongside her that night and injured in the accident, several giving victim impact statements.
On the night of the accident, Comardelle’s boat collided with the boat of Higgins and her family on 9:29 p.m. Higgins died on July 7 as result of her injuries.
Comardelle offered remorse at the hearing, telling those assembled in the courtroom that he regrets his actions every day.
“I know nothing I can say to you can erase the pain, emotional and physical, that I have caused,” he said. “I know I don’t deserve their forgiveness, but hope that somehow they will one day be able.”
Representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving attended the court hearing to reiterate the dangers of drinking and driving, be it in a car or on the water. Comardelle was previously charged with a DWI for an incident prior to the accident, and those offering victim impact statements on behalf of Higgins said they believe Comardelle made a decision to drink and drive his boat on that fateful night, in the process damaging their lives forever.
“I’ve waited two years for the chance to see any remorse on your face,” said Brock Tregre in the courtroom – Tregre was Higgins’ boyfriend and the father of Braxton and Dakota Tregre, who were injured in the accident. “I still have those thoughts … looking at my son, lifeless, hoping and praying he’s OK … Dakota screaming to find Audrey, and not knowing where Braxton is … then three days later I get a phone call and learn that you took away the love of my life, the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.”
Higgins’ sister, Caitlin Higgins Comardelle recalled that due to COVID hospital restrictions, having to make impossible choices.
“I could only go see one … my sister and husband, and having to choose who to go see, when both looked dead when I saw them last,” she said.
On Higgins’ death, she said “This is a nightmare I cannot wake up from.”
Suzette Higgins, Audrey’s mother, lost her mother to an accident involving a drunk driver years ago, noting she thought that was the worst thing that would ever happen in her life until she lost her daughter two years ago.
“The court failed my family (when her mother died). I ask the court not to fail my family this time,” she said in her impact statement.
After the hearing was over, Tregre said there were mixed emotions.
“Knowing he’s gonna get sentenced, knowing he’s gonna have jail time, it still doesn’t change what happened. Audrey still won’t come back because he went to jail,” Tregre said. “It doesn’t change what happened to our family. It doesn’t fix Blake’s leg. It doesn’t fix Dakota’s leg. It doesn’t fix Braxton, doesn’t fix Miss Sue. We try to have happy times … but we know she’s upset.
“It’s something we deal with every day. It’s not what we want to do, but we have to.”
Blake Comardelle, Caitlin’s husband, suffered severe injuries in the accident. Including a leg that was wounded to the point it was possible it would need to be amputated.
Their family started the Facebook page “Justice for Audrey Maria Higgins” with the goal of spreading awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving while also updating on the case against Kevin Comardelle.
“We’re tired of this happening over and over again. Since this happened, we can count several times the number of (drinking and driving incidents) that have happened to people just miles from where we live. We’re hoping that these actions taken by people come to an end,” Blake said.
Caitlin said the day was a long time coming for her family, but also echoed her powerful statement from the hearing.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for two years,” she said. “There’s a sense of relief, but we live this nightmare every day.”