Fiancée Dead After Two Boats Crash Near Statue of Liberty

Driver of one boat arrested after failing Breathalyzer test

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    NEWSLETTERS

    One person dead after a deadly boat collision in NY Harbor. (Published Saturday, Jul 3, 2010)

    A boat crash near the Statue of Liberty claimed the life of a 30-year-old man less than eight weeks before his wedding in a horrific start to the holiday weekend.

    Two pleasure crafts collided in New York harbor Friday evening -- killing Jijo Puthuvamkunnath, who was set to be married Aug. 28th, and injuring two others. Police arrested the driver of one of the boats, 39-year-old Richard Aquilone, after he failed a Breathalyzer test and later charged him with second-degree manslaughter. 

    The Coast Guard confirmed that the two boats crashed near the Statue of Liberty at around 6:20 p.m. The Guard and NYPD ships rushed to the scene.

    Officials said a 30-foot boat, with Quilino, his children and wife, on board, "T-boned" a 20-foot boat with Puthuvamkunnath and two others in it, splitting it in half.

    Puthuvamkunnath, who had been in the smaller boat, died after being taken from the scene in critical condition, police said. Doctors at Jersey Center Medical Center said he died of severe brain and head injuries.

    His family members are so destroyed most cannot yet talk about the crash that killed Puthuvamkunnath -- an aspiring doctor who had just received his degree in physical therapy and had lived in the states his whole life. Choking back tears, a cousin of the victim said that he was not angry at the driver of the other boat, but wished he had thought twice before getting behind the wheel.

    The other two victims -- both 30-year-old men -- in the smaller boat suffered only "bumps and bruises," officials said. Both were admitted to Jersey City Hospital -- one with a knee abrasion and the other with a head laceration -- in stable condition.

    "Obviously there was some significant force that struck the [killed] individual and the other two didn't receive the same type of impacts," said JCMC's Dr. Vincent Canabal.

    Investigators say that impact left the smaller boat so mangled that it hampered the rescue effort.

    "We couldn't get the individual out so we requested a basket," said Sgt. John Gallagher with the NYPD marine squad. "We hoisted him out and transported him here."

    All of the family members in the larger vessel were unscathed. A telephone number for Quilone couldn't immediately be found. NBCNewYork stopped by an address listed for him in Jersey City, but knocks went unanswered. Children's voices could be heard from within, however, and a woman's voice responded only, "Go away."

    Neighbors of the Quilone family described Richard as a wonderful father. They said they were devastated by what happened and one woman even cried while talking about the situation.

    In light of yesterday's crash, the Coast Guard held a news conference and question-and-answer session on boating safety Saturday morning. No new information was released as far as details on the incident, but Coast Guard officials say the conference aimed to get the word out on how to have a safe experience on the water.

    Tom George from Jersey City is a cousin of one of the men on the smaller boat. He told NBCNewYork that "the boat was anchored near the Statue of Liberty" when the larger boat crashed into them.

    "They were in a small craft docked, dropped anchor at the Statue of Liberty, and what had happened a larger watercraft, much larger, went through them and hit them," he said.

    George said his cousin and others on the smaller boat were very familiar with boating.