Boat operator charged in Hudson River crash; engaged couple on board

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Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 7:53pm

(CNN) -- The operator of a boat that was taking an engaged couple and four of their friends on the Hudson River when it struck a barge Friday night 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.

More charges are possible, he said.

John, like the three others who remained inside the boat after it crashed, suffered head injuries in the crash, Van Cura said. He said that the operator was not the registered owner of the boat, which may have more than one owner.

A 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 told CNN.

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.

The six had dined Friday at a restaurant, then set off on what was to have been a nine-mile boat ride from the village of Piermont in Rockland County toward Tarrytown when it collided with three barges that were lashed together near the bridge. The barges, which were being used by a contractor who is building a new bridge, had been there since around April, Van Cura said.

Stewart and Lennon went overboard when the 21-foot Stingray power boat hit the side of one of the barges about 200 feet south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is located about 25 miles north of Manhattan.

Police got a 911 call from Stewart's fiance, Brian Bond, at 10:41 p.m., reporting the boat had struck an object south of the bridge.

Bond was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center with head injuries, said Stewart's stepfather, Walter Kosik, who visited him Saturday in the hospital. "He was in no condition to talk."

A spokesman for the medical center said Bond was in fair condition.

Stewart, 30, and Bond, 36, had known each other since they were children, had gone to the same church and fell in love about 3½ years ago, Kosik said.

"She's supposed to be married two weeks from today," said Carol Stewart, whose daughter had been a human resources manager at an insurance company in Nyack. "It just can't end like this."

"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.

Craig and Celeste Kmiecik said they were boating in the area on Friday night and that it appeared dark. "There was a moon last night, but you really can't see anything," said Craig Kmiecik.

"The barge was not lit up," said Celeste Kmiecik. "We saw that last night coming back to the marina."

CNN's Alina Cho and Chris Welch contributed to this report.

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