NBC 4 New York
Audio between first responders and the dispatcher in the search for the boat that crashed into a barge on the Hudson River was released Wednesday, the same day the the family of the victims issued their first public statements. Jen Maxfield reports.
The families of a bride and her groom's best man who were killed in a boating accident on the Hudson River said in a statement Wednesday that the passengers on the boat "had consumed very little alcohol and considered themselves sober," and pleaded for information from boaters familiar with the crash scene.
The mother and step-father of Lindsey Stewart, and parents of Mark Lennon, said in their first extensive public remarks about the crash that their families "are shattered" by the crash that killed two and injured four other boaters, including Stewart's fiance, Brian Bond. The speedboat crashed into a barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge Friday night, two weeks before Stewart and Bond were to marry.
The boat operator, Jojo John, has been arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, and officials say there was probable cause that he was intoxicated.
The families said in the statement that "toxicology results supporting those charges will not be available for days," and said the passengers on the boat were not drunk. John's lawyer has called the crash "a tragedy."
"Compounding our agony is the rush, by some, to cast blame on or even malign the victims," the statement said.
Audio released from rescuers Wednesday highlighted the confusion following the crash. Bond was the one who called 911.
In the recording, a first responder asks the dispatcher, "If you speak to those people on the vessel, could you find out what they hit?"
The dispatcher responds, "They have no idea what they hit, they've been asked multiple times."
The first responder guessed correctly: "We've got barges anchored out off shore. I'm sure that's what they hit. Tell them to head for the barge."
Crash survivor Dan Diiorgi's attorney Nicholas Warywoda said his client has cell phone video of the moment of impact that shows no lights on the barge.
"No one gave any indication that they saw the barge before the impact," he said.
The families asked Hudson River boaters to submit information about the barges in that area.
"If you were out on the water, on or before the night of Friday, July 26, and have knowledge of the barges or the accident conditions, please share your information with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
The New York State Thruway Authority and the Coast Guard say the barge lighting appeared to be functioning normally and met all regulations.
The Rockland County medical examiner's office found Stewart died from drowning and head injuries and that Lennon also drowned but had minor injuries.
At a wake for Stewart Wednesday, a continuous flow of mourners lined up to pay respects.
A group of women who worked with her at a local textile company for years said it was difficult to accept that "we can't bring her back," according to Gerry Reynolds.
Another former co-worker, Eleanor Manheimer, said, "Where we work, it seems like nobody can smile."
-- Jen Maxfield and Ida Siegal contributed to this report.
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