Speedboat Driver Charged in Hudson River Barge Collision

By MarEx 2013-11-08 08:02:00

A grand jury indicted the driver of a speedboat that crashed and killed a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man on New York's Hudson River after testing showed he had consumed nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol, officials said on Thursday.

The driver, Jojo John, had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent when he crashed the boat carrying six people from a wedding party into a barge on the Hudson River near the Tappan Zee Bridge, theRockland County District Attorney's office said.

The bridge, a major transportation link across the river, is about 25 miles (40 km) north of central Manhattan.

"Drinking and driving is a lethal mix, as it appears to have been in this incident, which left several families shattered," Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said in a news release.

John's attorney, David Narain, disputed the toxicology results and said poor lighting led to the crash, not any negligence on John's part.

"The defense investigation has uncovered substantial evidence, including physical evidence and the testimony of numerous witnesses, that the cause of this tragic accident was the poorly and inadequately lit group of barges struck by Jojo John's boat," Narain said in a news release.

John faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison on the top counts of the indictment, the release said. The charges contain six counts of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, along with eight others.

The crash killed bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart and best man Mark Lennon and injured John and the other riders - including Stewart's fiance, Brian Bond.

The couple had been friends since childhood in the suburbs north of New York City and went to the same church in the town of Pearl River, several miles west of the Hudson, according to a report by News 12 Westchester television. 

Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay (C) Reuters 2013.