Bride-to-be, best man killed when powerboat slams into construction barge
BY BILL DEMAREST
NEW CITY – The Nyack man who drove the 19-foot Stingray powerboat that crashed into a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge in July has been indicted by a Rockland County grand jury on criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter charges in connection with the death of two passengers – a bride-to-be from Piermont and her Pearl River man who was going to be the best man in the wedding.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said driver was legally drunk and had traces of cocaine in his blood system.
Jojo K. John, 35, of Gail Drive is accused of driving the boat while under the influence of alcohol when it left a marina in Piermont and slammed into a barge just south of the bridge at about 10:40 p.m. The impact threw Lindsey Stewart of Piermont and Mark Lennon of Pearl River into the Hudson River. The bodies were discovered in the river after two days of searching.
“(John) is accused of taking the helm of his boat while under the influence of alcohol, being unable to maintain situational awareness and striking a construction barge,” said Zugibe. “Drinking and driving is a lethal mix, as it appears to have been in this incident, which left several families shattered.”
John and three others, including Stewart’s fiancé, were injured in the accident, which prompted a frantic search on the river by volunteer firefighters from Piermont and Nyack.
Zugibe said that after the accident a court order was obtained to a sample of John’s blood as he was being treated at Nyack Hospital. He said tests found he had a .15 percent blood alcohol level, which is nearly twice the level to be cited for drunken driving. Zugibe said cocaine metabolites were also found in John’s system.
John faces arraignment on charges of:
• Two counts of Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree, class “C” Felonies
• Four counts of Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree, class “D” Felonies
• Two counts of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, class “C” Felonies
• Two counts of Criminally Negligent Homicide, class “E” Felonies
• Two counts of Vehicular Assault in the First Degree, class “D” Felonies
• Four counts of Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree, class “E” Felonies
• Two counts of Operating a Vessel Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, Misdemeanors
John was arrested while he was recovering at the hospital. The charges against John have a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, if convicted.
The crash led to a review of the lighting for the construction barges, which are used to carry supplies and equipment for the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The U.S. Coast Guard determined the barges had the legally-required navigational lighting and warnings about the construction zone had been posted in Coast Guard bulletins for boaters. However, lighting on the barges was upgraded after the crash.
The barge involved was located on the Rockland County side of the river, south of the Tappan Zee Bridge. John and his friends had been at Pier 701, a waterfront restaurant on Piermont Avenue in Piermont, before they went out on the boat.