Boat operator charged in Hudson River crash; engaged couple on board
(CNN) — The path that led Lindsey Stewart and Brian Bond to decide to join their lives together was as measured and deliberate as its end was abrupt.
The two had been friends since they were children living in the suburbs north of New York City. They went to the same church. More than three years ago, the relationship turned romantic.
Next month, the 30-year-old human resources manager at an insurance company in Nyack, and her 36-year-old beau were to marry at Good Shepherd Church in Pearl River.
The reception was to be at Torne Valley Winery in Hillburn.
“She did all the plans herself,” her stepfather, Walter Kosik, told CNN. “She had everything under control.”
Actually, some things were out of her control.
On Friday night, Stewart and Bond and four of their friends dined at a restaurant, then boarded a 21-foot Stingray power boat on the Hudson River for what was to have been a nine-mile ride from the village of Piermont in Rockland County to Tarrytown.
It was a clear, balmy night.
The short ride and the couple’s long-term plans collided fatally when the boat struck the side of one of three barges that were lashed together at a construction site near the Tappan Zee Bridge, 25 miles north of Manhattan.
The barges, which were being used by a contractor who is building a new bridge, had been anchored in the river since around April, Van Cura said.
Stewart was thrown from the boat, as was Mark Lennon, who was to have served as the couple’s best man.
Despite suffering serious head injuries, Bond called 911 from the boat Stewart’s fiance, Brian Bond, at 10:41 p.m., reporting the boat had struck an object south of the bridge.
Rescuers poured in from around the area, but to no avail.
At 2:30 a.m. Saturday, the police showed up at the house belonging to Stewart’s mother and stepfather.
“That’s something — a nightmare — I don’t wish on any parent, to get that police coming over your house waking you out of your sleep to tell you that an accident has occurred,” Kosik said.
A few hours later, a body believed to be that of Stewart was discovered about an eighth of a mile off the riverbank. The search for Lennon, which proved fruitless on Saturday, was to resume Sunday morning, but officials held out little hope that he would be found alive.
“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,” Robert Van Cura, undersheriff of the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters.
The four who were not thrown from the boat suffered head injuries and were taken to area hospitals.
One of them, boat operator Jojo K. John, 35, was arrested.
“We have probable cause to believe that he operated the boat while intoxicated,” said Van Cura.
John was arraigned at an area hospital on one count of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and three counts of second-degree vehicular assault, Van Cura said.
More charges are possible, he said.
Van Cura said that the operator was not the registered owner of the boat, which may have more than one owner.
Bond was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center, said 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.
“She’s supposed to be married two weeks from today,” said Carol Stewart about her daughter. “It just can’t end like this.”
An investigation has begun. “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.
But 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.”