NEW YORK –The operator of a boat that was carrying an engaged couple and their friends when it struck a barge has been arrested, police said Saturday after a body believed to be that of the bride-to-be was found.
“We have probable cause to believe that he operated the boat while intoxicated,” said Robert Van Cura, undersheriff of the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office.
The boat operator, Jojo K. John, 35, of Nyack, New York, was arraigned at an area hospital on one count of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and three counts of second-degree vehicular assault, Van Cura told reporters.
John, like the others on the boat, suffered head injuries Friday night, Van Cura said. He added that the operator was not the registered owner of the boat, which may have more than one owner.
The body believed to be that of Lindsey Stewart of Piermont, New York, was recovered earlier in the day about an eighth of a mile from the riverbank, Sheriff’s Chief William Barbera said.
The air and water search for Mark Lennon, who was to have been the best man at the August 10 wedding, was suspended at 5 p.m., with plans to resume at 10 a.m. Sunday, Van Cura said.
“We’re always hopeful, but obviously, at this hour, it’s less and less likely that this would be a rescue as opposed to a recovery,” he said.
Police got a 911 call from someone on the boat at 10:41 p.m. Friday reporting that the boat had struck an object south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, he said.
The six had eaten at a restaurant, then boarded the boat and were sailing from the village of Piermont in Rockland County toward Tarrytown when the boat collided with three barges that were lashed together near the bridge. The barges were being used by a contractor who is building a new bridge and had been there since around April, Van Cura said.
Stewart and Lennon went overboard when the 21-foot Stingray power boat hit a side of one of the barges about 200 feet south of the bridge, located about 25 miles north of Manhattan.
“The barge had some lights on it; whether or not it was properly lighted is part of the investigation,” Van Cura said.
“On a clear, moonlit night, with the bridge lights on, you can see pretty well,” said Tom Sobolik in a telephone interview from aboard his sailboat near the accident site.
The moon was last full on July 22.
Sobolik is a professional photographer who has taken many shots of the river near the bridge, which is about 25 miles north of Manhattan and connects Tarrytown and Nyack.
The woman’s fiance was among the four who were injured, the family said. He suffered a fractured eye socket, WABC reported.
Stewart’s stepfather, Walter Kosik, said the family was notified about the accident early Saturday.
“That’s a nightmare I don’t wish on any parent — police coming over to your house waking you up out of your sleep to tell you an accident has occurred,” Kosik told CNN.
“She’s supposed to be married two weeks from today,” said Carol Stewart about her daughter. “It just can’t end like this.”
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