NBC 4 New York
An experienced boater says he warned officials about the dangers of the lack of lighting near the water weeks ago. Two people died Saturday in Piermont after the boat they were riding slammed into a barge. Ida Siegal reports.
Family and friends clutched yellow flowers at the funeral Thursday for a 30-year-old woman killed in a boat crash on the Hudson River two weeks before she was set to be married to a childhood friend.
As mourners remembered Lindsey Stewart, questions over the lighting of the construction barges near the Tappan Zee Bridge and whether it played a role in the crash continued to linger.
Services for Stewart were held at the Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Pearl River, the church where she had planned her wedding. A wake was also being held Thursday for Mark Lennon, who was supposed to be the best man at Stewart’s wedding next week.
Stewart and Lennon were killed when a speedboat they were on crashed into a barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge Friday night. Four others were injured in the crash, including Stewart's fiance, Brian Bond. Relatives said they had known each other since elementary school.
Standing at the altar, Stewart's mother, Carol Stewart-Kosik, told Bond that her daughter loved him with "every fiber of her being.''
After speaking, she went to his pew and hugged him.
The Rockland County medical examiner's office found Stewart died from drowning and head injuries and that Lennon also drowned but had minor injuries. 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."
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."
The crash survivors said it was pitch-black and they couldn't see the barge.
"Compounding our agony is the rush, by some, to cast blame on or even malign the victims," the statement said.
The New York Thruway Authority installed more lights on the barges after the crash as a precautionary measure, even though regulations do not require the additional lighting.
Experienced boater Michael Hortens said the lighting should have been installed prior to the accident and that he sounded the alarm to officials almost a month ago.
"I emailed the mayor of Nyack and I said, 'Look, this is an accident waiting to happen, and she said she was glad I brought it up,'" said Hortens.
The email was passed along to the Thruway Authority, who investigated it. The agency told NBC 4 New York, "The U.S. Coast Guard made it clear that the lights on the barge met all the requirements and were visible for one nautical mile."
There were no other complaints about barge lighting, so the case was closed, the Thruway Authority said, adding that a map detailing barges and moore locations was circulated to all local marinas months ago.
Hortens said common sense should have prevailed, especially because it was a recreational boating area.
"When you have recreational boaters, you're not talking about seasoned captains," he said. "You're talking about people that are out for a good time, so you have to plan for that."
-- Ida Siegal contributed to this report.