NY boat victims' parents doubt booze caused crash

AP News
Posted: Jul 31, 2013 2:13 PM
NY boat victims' parents doubt booze caused crash

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — The parents of a bride-to-be killed in a boating accident on the Hudson River suggested Wednesday that poor lighting on a barge, not drunkenness, was responsible for the crash.

In a statement issued the day before Lindsey Stewart's funeral, her mother and stepfather and the parents of a second victim complained that there was a "rush" to blame Jojo John, who was piloting the powerboat that hit a barge Friday night.

The stationary barge was carrying construction materials for the $3.9 billion project to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson.

Investigators have said that based on witness statements, they suspect that John, 35, who was injured, was intoxicated. He has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.

But the families, after saying they were "shattered" by the accident that killed Stewart and Mark Lennon two weeks before the wedding, said, "Compounding our agony is the rush, by some, to cast blame on or even malign the victims. While police have issued serious charges against the boat's driver, toxicology results supporting those charges will not be available for days."

They said their conversations with survivors of the crash, including groom-to-be Brian Bond, made clear that the passengers "had consumed very little alcohol and considered themselves sober."

They were all "mature, respected professionals," the parents said. Stewart, Lennon and Bond were all 30.

It was also clear, the parents said, that "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.

The parents, Carol Stewart-Kosik and Walter Kosik and Kevin and Dympna Lennon, asked other boaters to help with the investigation by emailing any knowledge they have "of the barges or the accident conditions."

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe confirmed Wednesday that tests on John's blood are not yet complete. He said all information would be submitted to a grand jury.

Zugibe also revealed that investigators have a brief cellphone video, shot by one of the survivors, that shows the moments just before the crash.

"It picks up the last few seconds before impact," Zugibe said.

The district attorney said it's difficult to tell if the video shows the actual impact. He says the cellphone also briefly recorded audio of the impact and the aftermath of the crash.

He says investigators are carefully reviewing the recording for clues to the cause of the accident.

Stewart's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the church where she would have been married Aug. 10. Lennon's funeral is scheduled for Friday.