Hudson River Deaths Highlight Boating Safety and Liability

Lindsey Stewart and Brian Bond would be married today had a seemingly innocent boat ride on the Hudson River not taken a serious turn for the worse last month.

The pair joined a few friends, including the best man at their upcoming wedding, on July 26 for a night ride on the Hudson in Rockland County, near the Tappan Zee Bridge. Their boat, however, slammed into a construction barge underneath the bridge, sending the occupants of the 21-foot vessel into the water.

When all was said and done, the boating accident left Stewart dead two weeks before her wedding.  Also dead was Mark Lennon, who was to be the best man at the event. Bond was sent to the hospital with a fractured eye socket, and the two other men in the boat were also hospitalized.

One of those men was Jojo John, who was allegedly operating the boat when it crashed. He was also allegedly intoxicated. John was arraigned on vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter charges while confined to his hospital bed.

Issue #1: Safety First

New York City is fortunate to be located on one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Waterways helped make this city, and we’re fortunate to have them. Those who can afford it hit the rivers and sea on their boats when the weather is nice – from the Hudson River to the Long Island Sound.

But boating can be just as dangerous as driving, if not more so. The operator must not be distracted. It is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. Safety vests must be on board for all passengers, and there is no good reason not to wear them at all times.

Just two of the five occupants in the July 26 crash were wearing safety vests, the Daily News reported.

Here are some statistics on boating accidents, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • In 2012, the nation saw 4,515 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 651 deaths and 3,000 injuries.
  • All three categories – accidents, deaths, injuries – declined between 2011 to 2012.
  • Seven in 10 people who die in boating accidents drown. Of those, 85% were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Alcohol is the leading contributing factor to boating fatalities, playing a role in 17% of 2012 boating deaths.

The Coast Guard separates the causes of boating accidents into four categories: operator error, improper loading, equipment failure and environmental hazards.

Issue #2: Liability

We do not absolve ourselves of our legal responsibilities when we decide to take a ride on a boat. Much to the contrary, actually – we are responsible for operating that boat in a safe manner. It is a crime to operate a boat while intoxicated, just as it is with a car.

It is not only a safety issue or a common sense issue. It’s a legal issue.

Regardless of the outcome, the criminal charges may not be the last legal problems to face the boat’s driver in connection with the incident. Jojo John could be hit with a civil lawsuit from any of the other occupants or, in the case of Stewart and Lennon, from their families.

Wrongful death suits are one of the only ways a family can get a sense of justice after losing a loved one. A successful wrongful death suit can recover the costs of funeral services and burial, as well as additional compensation for a family’s grief and loss. It’s nothing anyone wants to happen, and it won’t bring a loved one back. But it can put their family in the best possible place to start recovering.

For the other injured passengers, a personal injury lawsuit could get reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred in the recovery, plus compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering and more.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one was serious injured in a boating accident in New York or New Jersey, contact The Oshman Firm today to learn how we may be able to help you seek compensation. We have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident and build the strongest case possible to get the compensation you deserve.

Ted Oshman


Ted Oshman has been with The Oshman Firm since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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