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NY boater gets prison for fatal Hudson River crash

September 16, 2014

NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) — A man who was drunk when he crashed a powerboat into a construction barge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiance’s best man, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in jail.

The victims’ families, who say poor lighting on the barge was the main cause of the collision on the Hudson River, called the sentence “incomplete justice.”

Jojo John, 36, of Nyack, had pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the July 2013 deaths of two friends, Lindsey Stewart of Piermont and Mark Lennon of Pearl River, both 30. Stewart was to have been married two weeks later. John, groom-to-be Brian Bond and two others were injured.

John’s 19-foot Stingray crashed into a barge that was moored about 30 miles north of Manhattan as part of the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge. Prosecutors said John had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system and quoted him as telling first responders, “I’ve been drinking all day,” or words to that effect.

Before sentence was imposed Tuesday, John turned to the victims’ relatives in the gallery and said through tears, “If I could, I would give my own life” to bring back his friends.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about those guys,” he said.

He told state Supreme Court Justice William Kelly: “There are days when I question why God took two people and not me. ... I find myself crying a lot because of how my heart feels about them not being here.”

Mark Lennon’s brother Raymond told the judge the crash caused both families “incomprehensible heartache.” But he was sympathetic toward John, saying, “He is facing a life sentence of his own.” He said other guilty parties, whom he did not name, were “unscathed” and John’s sentence was “incomplete justice at best.”

John’s lawyer, David Narain, has insisted that the crash was caused not by intoxication but by a lack of lighting, and the victims’ families have filed lawsuits against several construction companies. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted.

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said outside court Tuesday that John was “solely responsible” for the crash and there was “no evidence that would have supported any criminal charge” against bridge construction companies.

The district attorney noted that John had been “given a second chance” when he was granted probation on a drug conviction before the crash.

“He was not entitled to a third chance,” Zugibe said.

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