By Bill Demarest
The driver of a speedboat that crashed into a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge in July killing two passengers has been indicted by a Rockland County grand jury for criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Jojo K. John, a Nyack resident, was legally drunk and had traces of cocaine in his blood system.
The impact from the crash ended the lives of two 30-year old local residents. Lindsey Stewart, from Piermont, was to be married the day after the fatal incident and Mark Lennon, from Pearl River, who was going to be the best man in her wedding.
“(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.
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. 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 drinking a waterfront restaurant in Piermont before they went out on the boat.
John’s attorney cautions the public not to rush to judgement regarding the DA’s statements on this emotional case. “We dispute the toxicology results and look forward to challenging those findings,” said David D. Narain, a White Plains attorney who is the lead lawyer for John’s defense.
Narain says the real cause of the accident was inadequate lighting of the construction barges near the Tappan Zee Bridge and that the defense has uncovered “substantial evidence” to back up that claim. “We look forward to presenting this evidence in court and establishing that Jojo John’s actions did not cause the collision that led to the tragic deaths of Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon and the injuries to the other passengers,” Narain said.
See also: Additional Charges Considered in Fatal Hudson Boat Crash, 7/29/2013
Bill Demarest blogs about news in Nyack and Rockland County at NyackFreePress.blogspot.com.
Photo Credit: Ray Wright