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Autopsy reveals details in Borden drowning, canoe passengers speak

December 29, 2017
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The investigation has been closed surrounding Saige Borden's drowning in the waters of Lake Placid on May 12. After seven months and the Enterprise obtaining her autopsy report, the other two people in the canoe have provided some commentary on the events of that spring morning.

Those two are Jonni Springer, 22, of South Glens Falls and Camilla Varoli, 19, of Lake Placid.

"It was Camilla, Saige and myself in the canoe," Springer said. "I was in the front. Saige was in the middle. Camilla was in the back. We went out there to get a better view of the sunrise."

The were no life jackets in the canoe.

"We paddled out, I'd say, probably 50, 60 feet." Springer added. "We were heading toward Whiteface on Lake Placid in the canoe. The canoe flipped. Whatever the cause was - I don't know if it was Camilla or Saige falling over, or if it was me and Camilla both paddled and leaned on the right side - I'm not really sure what it was."

The long state police investigation ended with only misdemeanor charges, and those were related to underage drinking, not the canoe incident.

Springer said there wasn't any indication of foul play as to why the canoe flipped, and he would like to alleviate any suspicions.

"I know in my heart, Camilla did not kill or hurt Saige," he said, "and this was a tragic accident."

Nevertheless, he said he was taken aback by Varoli's course of action after Saige's death.

"The way that she's ducking everybody makes her look sketchy," Springer said. "For example, right when it happened, hours after it happened, she was saying that she was going to Florida. I was like, 'What are you saying?' and she was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to stay with my sister in Florida. I've got to go.'"

Varoli agreed to a phone interview and then canceled, but made a statement in a series of text messages to the Enterprise:

"I was in the canoe, fell in the water as well, dragged Saige for as long as I could, but if you've been [in] freezing water you would know how difficult is is to even drag your own body weight. Nothing dramatic happened to flip the canoe, nobody was even talking when it flipped. I got help from our care taker, called the police when I got to shore, and grabbed life jackets, I also went to the hospital with Saige that same morning. I did everything I could.

"I live with the trauma of that day every singled day, and every single day I re-examine what else I could have done, and I believe I will live with it for the rest of my life."

Varoli was recently charged with counts of unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree, a misdemeanor, for allegedly giving alcohol to three people under the age of 21. Borden was one of those three, police said.

Varoli was also charged with petit larceny, a misdemeanor, for purchasing alcohol with a stolen credit card belonging to a 48-year-old woman - Saige's mother, Suzanne Borden, says it was her credit card. Varoli was released with appearance tickets for both the Lake Placid village court and the North Elba town court because the alcohol was bought outside the village but drank in the village. Her court dates are yet to be determined.

The autopsy report, written by Franklin County Coroner Ronald Keough and reviewed by Adirondack Health pathologist Dr. C. Francis Varga, describes the incident citing state police reports. It said the three fell into the 40-degree water after their canoe capsized because of unknown reasons around 5:30 a.m. Springer and Varoli made it to shore while Saige did not. Saige was about 20 feet behind the two and appeared to be swimming toward a neighboring dock.

Varoli went to caretaker Adam Riquier's nearby house on Ruissemont Way and said a woman was in the water. Riquier told Varoli to call 911, and jumped into the water to try and save Saige. However, his boots were weighing him down, and he went back to shore where he took off his boots, Springer handed him a life jacket, and Riquier swam out to Saige. Her body was limp, and her lips were blue. He got her back to shore and placed her in a seated position against the dock steps.

The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department showed up, and Fire Chief Wasson administered CPR to Saige. The rescue team used a defibrillator, which brought Saige out of asystole, a flatlining cardiac arrest, and into a state where her heart rhythm was too faint to detect a pulse.

When Saige arrived at the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, her temperature was 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 18 degrees lower than the average body temperature. Hospital staff warmed her body with saline through two chest tubes. After four hours and Saige going in and out of normal cardiac rhythm, resuscitation was terminated. She was pronounced dead at 11:55 a.m.

The Enterprise has requested copies of police reports but has yet to receive them. State police Investigator Nicholas Delahant declined to comment on the case except to say it is closed.

Keough said he couldn't comment without proper authorization. Riquier opted not to. Wasson was unavailable.

Shortly before the canoe capsized, Varoli took a Snapchat image of the three watching the sunrise. It showed Springer paddling at the front of the boat, facing forward. Saige was in the middle wearing a New York Rangers winter hat and holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer toward the camera.

Before heading to Camp Gordon, owned by Varoli's family, Saige and her friend Cameryn Brooks went to a party at Matthew Pilawa's apartment in Lake Placid. Brooks said there must've been only 10 or so people at Pilawa's. Saige and Brooks stayed for about 30 minutes.

"We probably drank a bottle of wine," Brooks said, "and maybe a few beers." She added that neither she nor Saige felt intoxicated.

Pilawa, 29, of Lake Placid, was recently charged with criminal nuisance in the second degree for allowing underage consumption of alcohol and drug use to take place at his home.

Saige, Brooks and Varoli stopped by the Borden residence where Springer met up with them. Brooks stayed at the house and went to sleep while the other three went to Camp Gordon to walk Varoli's dogs, according to Springer.

At 4:54 a.m. Saige reached out to a friend, asking for help.

She texted "I need ur help where r u" and "I need to come to u pls hello" to a person this newspaper chose not to name because the person could not be reached, was not charged and is not a public official.

After the friend texted back, "I couls go over there," Borden texted, "I would need u to pay for a cab to get me here and then go to my house."

Saige called this person twice, and the friend missed the second call.

It's unclear why Saige was asking for help.

Without explanation from coroner, the police investigator or the Essex County district attorney's office, it is unclear exactly what exact substances were in Saige's blood at her time of death. However, both the autopsy and a toxicology report from NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania found she had recreational drugs in her system and a blood alcohol content at least above the legal limit to drive.

Springer said that when the three were in the canoe, "No one was belligerently drunk."

Saige's brother Remi Borden said she didn't drink any more than anyone else her age. "She never drank way too much," he said. "It's not every day. It's the normal kid thing, like drinking on the weekends."



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