NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP)—The powerboat pilot involved in a Hudson River crash that killed a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man was drunk at the time, according to an indictment made public Thursday.
A defense lawyer said even if that’s true, intoxication was not the cause of the crash.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe announced the indictment against Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, who was among six people on the 19-foot Stingray boat when it crashed into a construction barge on the night of July 26. The crash occurred just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge off Piermont, north of New York City.
The crash threw two occupants, Lindsey Stewart of Piermont and Mark Lennon of Pearl River, both 30, into the river. Both drowned. John and three others, including the groom-to-be, were injured. Stewart’s wedding was two weeks away.
Among the 18 charges are vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault, and operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Drinking and driving is a lethal mix, as it appears to have been in this incident, which left several families shattered,” Zugibe said.
He said lab tests showed John’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal level for boating. He also said tests found “cocaine metabolites” in John’s system, but did not say at what level or if that had anything to do with the crash. Metabolites are substances produced after the body breaks down cocaine.
A call to John’s defense lawyer, David D. Narain, was not immediately returned. But James Mercante, who is representing John in civil matters, said poor lighting on the barge, not intoxication, caused the crash.
“Any alleged impairment had nothing to do with the casualties,” he said. “One should be able to cross a wide open expanse of river, whether impaired or not impaired, without having poorly lit or unlit barges in the middle of the road, so to speak.”
Stewart’s and Lennon’s parents also have blamed the lighting on the barge, which was part of preconstruction activity in preparation for the building of a new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The parents issued a statement—the day before Stewart’s funeral—saying they had spoken to survivors and “none of them saw the barge. They did not brace for impact and could not identify what they had hit—even after impact.”
Investigators have said they are looking into whether the barge was properly lighted. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, have said it was. The Thruway Authority added lighting after the crash.