For the first time in New York, an alleged drunk boater has been indicted on a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, according to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Aggravated vehicular homicide is a charge designed for drunk drivers but a Suffolk grand jury instead brought that charge against alleged drunk boater Brian Andreske, 27, of Dix Hills.
Prosecutors said Andreske was drunk and high when he crashed his speed boat into another vessel in Great South Bay on June 23.
Christopher Mannino, a 39-year-old father of two from West Islip, was killed in the crash.
"So many people have been badly injured or killed on the water," Spota told reporters Wednesday. "The time has come that we have to be very aggressive."
Mannino's distraught widow, Michelle Mannino, watched Andreske's arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, along with more than a dozen supporters. Many wore neon t-shirts reading "Justice for Christopher Mannino."
"My kids are a mess. They keep asking for their father," said Michelle Mannino. "I want justice for my husband."
Mannino's brother, Anthony, said he was glad to see Andreske headed to jail.
"He's been out for two months, eating with his family, and I can't eat with my brother," he said. "There's something wrong there."
Andreske, the branch manager of a Smithtown rental car company, said nothing in court aside from pleading not guilty to the 19-count indictment against him. He was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail.
His parents and friends watched as he was led away in handcuffs. If convicted, Andreske could face up to 32 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, Andreske piloted a 26-foot Skater speed boat at speeds up to 80 miles per hour before crashing into the fishing boat near the Robert Moses bridge.
Mannino, a passenger on the boat, suffered severe head injuries before he was thrown into the water by the force of the crash. His body was found nine hours later by Suffolk police divers, Spota said.
Andreske admitted to drinking five beers at a party on Fire Island before crash, prosecutors said. His blood alcohol level registered .18 percent more than 90 minutes after the crash, a level more than two times the legal limit.
"This is a terrible tragedy for both families and we intend to litigate the case in court," said Eric Sills, Andreske's lawyer. Andreske's defense team is expected to challenge the unprecedented charge against him. But Spota said the aggravated vehicular homicide charge meets all the legal criteria.