In the early hours before sunrise on Sunday, Joseph J. Vehnick searched desperately for a telephone to alert authorities that the powerboat he'd been on had crashed against a concrete abutment and sank in the Hudson River.
Despite serious injuries, he made his way to a barn some distance away on the river's eastern shore near Red Hook in upstate New York. From there, the 23-year-old made the 6:25 a.m. call that would lead rescuers to discover four dead boaters and an injured one, who, like Vehnick, had somehow survived.
Investigators are still trying to determine what happened in the moments before the boat crashed only 10-15 yards from the shore about 45 miles south of Albany, according to Lt. John Watterson of the Dutchess County sheriff's office. The survivors indicated the crash occurred around 4:30 a.m.
The boat's bow and bottom were seriously damaged, leading authorities to believe the driver had been speeding.
The body of 26-year-old John J. Uvino of Saugerties was found in the water, and it appeared he was thrown from the boat on impact, Watterson said. Divers recovered the bodies of three other boaters: Robert P. Macarthur, 27, of Kingston; Deena C. Cordero, 26, of Kingston; and Jay J. Bins, 41, of Kingston.
Vehnick, of Kingston, and 27-year-old Jessica K. Hotaling of Hyde Park, made it to shore. Both suffered multiple fractures and were being treated at area hospitals.
It wasn't immediately clear where the 19-foot boat was coming from or headed and who was driving, Watterson said. The medical examiner was conducting autopsies Sunday to determine the victims' cause of death, he said.
Authorities found beer bottles inside the boat and believe the occupants might have been drinking, Watterson said.
Part of the boat was still sticking out of the water when rescuers arrived. Its bow had smashed into the concrete, which may have been part of a dock or other shoreline structure there previously. It was unclear if it was marked off by a buoy, Watterson said.
The boat was pulled from the water and brought to an impound lot.
The powerboat, which has a single deck with no quarters below, is known as a bow rider because its passengers generally ride up front while the driver sits behind them.
The boat was registered to Arthur Fiore in Kingston, who couldn't be reached for comment Sunday night.