As usual, during the holidays there were a number of alcohol-related vehicle crashes that caused untold misery for families and friends of victims who were injured or killed in the crashes. Most all of the crashes involved cars and trucks and drunk drivers. But alcohol can also be a real problem on our waterways. Sometimes we forget that operators of boats and alcohol don’t mix any better on the water than they do on our highways. We wrote in a previous issue about two fatalities that occurred in New York on the Hudson River.
A powerboat pilot who was involved in the Hudson River crash that killed a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man was drunk at the time. A criminal indictment has been made public that revealed the pilot was drunk. The indictment was against Jojo John, the pilot, who was among six people on the 19-foot Stingray when it crashed into a construction barge on the night of July 26. But it is being claimed by lawyers representing the pilot that poor lighting on the barge, not the pilot’s intoxication, caused the crash.
The crash threw two occupants, Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, into the river and they both drowned. The pilot and three others, including the groom-to-be, were injured. Sadly, Ms. Stewart’s wedding was two weeks away. Among the 18 charges in the indictment are vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault and operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe was absolutely correct when he said: “Drinking and driving is a lethal mix, as it appears to have been in this incident, which left several families shattered.” Lab tests showed John’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal level for boating. Tests also found “cocaine metabolites,” which are substances produced after the body breaks down cocaine, in John’s system.
The parents of both victims also are blaming the lighting on the barge, which was part of pre-construction activity in preparation for the building of a new bridge, as being the cause of the crash. The parents issued a statement – the day before Ms. Stewart’s funeral – saying they had spoken to survivors and “none of them saw the barge,” and that “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.
It was reported that the Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted. Interestingly, it has been reported that the Thruway Authority added lighting after the crash. We must make sure that people are made aware that drinking and driving on our waterways can result in deaths and serious injuries. The existing laws must be enforced and weak laws on the subject made stronger. The Hudson River incident is a good example of the tragic consequences that can occur when folks mix alcohol and operating a boat.
Source: Insurance Journal
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