SMITHVILLE, MO (KCTV) – Ryan Brende and Joe Kassanavoid are counting their blessings.

Saturday afternoon, they were on a small boat with Brende’s wife and three sons and Kassanavoid’s four daughters. The two men met at Metropolitan Community College where they studied to be electrical linemen. Brende’s wife, Heaven, is still in the hospital. Kassanavoid’s 8-year-old daughter, Josie, has nine staples in her head.

“My brother is a good guy. He does a lot for everyone and doesn’t ask much in return. Seeing him in hospital, it makes me tear up right now just thinking about it,” Kassanavoid’s sister, Jasmine Samples, said. “He seemed helpless."

But both men are grateful because they say it could have been worse.

“Heaven is recovering well,” said Brende. “We’re just taking it day by day.”

He and their sons -- 2-year-old Beckham, 3-year-old Bentley and 7-year-old Braxton – were treated and released.

Kassanavoid said his 13-year-old, Jacie, was at the back of the boat at the main point of impact and jumped off just in time. He’s certain she would have faced instant death if she had not. His youngest girls, 3-year-old Jami and 5-year-old Jordi, were sitting closest to him. He said he covered them with his body to keep them from getting hit by the boat. He now has five stitches in his back from a puncture wound and a possible torn ligament in his knee.

Lake community social media pages are filled with outrage at the driver of the bigger boat that hit them at the typically peaceful lake. 41-year-old Michael Brittain was cited for careless and imprudent driving.

KCTV5 found Brittain has a slew of convictions—traffic violations, excessive speeding, domestic battery & burglary. We also found five prior DUI arrests —four in Missouri and one in Kansas. The first dates back to 2004, the last was in 2020.

A Highway Patrol spokesperson told us that if alcohol was a factor, he would have been booked that day. He was not. It’s unclear if a breathalyzer test was taken at the scene, although, the spokesperson says that would not be standard procedure at a boat crash.

The two families hit don’t want to get into that. But they want to thank all the fellow boaters who provided witness statements and rushed to load them onto their own boats to get them quickly to a boat ramp where EMTs were waiting.

“It was other caring, down to earth people who helped us get off the lake, onto the boat ramp and get medical help,” said Kassanavoid.

They both applauded the EMTs who got Heaven to the hospital quickly.

They are also appreciative of those sending kind words and donations on Facebook and Go Fund Me. They graduated in May and are not far enough along yet in their careers to qualify for workplace health insurance. Brende said he's still on his probationary period at his new job, and Kassanavoid said he's interning with a public utility.

The Go Fund Me page for Kassanavoid and his children can be found here.

The Go Fund Me page for the Brende family can be found here. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, StormTrack5 weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from KCTV5 News. 

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