As they prepare to say goodbye to their loved ones, the families of two people who died in last Friday's Hudson River boat crash have issued a statement. Authorities have charged the boat's driver, Jojo John, with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault, claiming he was drunk when the boat crashed into a barge by the Tappan Zee Bridge. However, the families blame NY State for the tragedy.
From left, Brian Bond, Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon
The families of Lindsey Stewart, who was supposed to be married on August 10, and Mark Lennon, who was going to be the best man, said, "Our conversations with some of the survivors of this accident, including Brian Bond, make two things quite clear: The passengers on the boat - all mature, respected professionals in their thirties - had consumed very little alcohol and considered themselves sober. None of them saw the barge. They did not brace for impact and could not identify what they had hit - even after impact - as they desperately worked to direct the first responders coming to their aid."
The barges were near the Tappan Zee Bridge for the state's renovation project. NY State has said that the barges were properly lit, but added additional lighting after the crash. A Rockland County police official added that "it is difficult to see barges that are low in the water in the dark."
Stewart's fiance (and Lennon's best friend) Brian Bond was seriously injured during the crash. Stewart's stepfather Walter Kosik told the Journal News, "With six people looking, nobody could see the barge. This is a problem and it’s being minimized." He added that he was told the boaters, including John, did not drink heavily, "That driver had a couple drinks in him. If he was that drunk, they would not have gotten onto the boat.”
Kosik said, "You’ve got two anchor lights, one on each side of the barge. With the glare off the bridge, you can’t see it... It’s just amazing that, the following day, (New York Gov. Andrew) Cuomo put lights on those barges, lighting it up like a Christmas tree 24 hours from when they got killed."
Here's the full statement from Stewart's and Lennon's families:
Our families are shattered by the horrible accident that took the lives of Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon and seriously injured and devastated so many others.
Compounding our agony is the rush, by some, to cast blame on or even malign the victims. While police have issued serious charges against the boat's driver, toxicology results supporting those charges will not be available for days.
Our conversations with some of the survivors of this accident, including Brian Bond, make two things quite clear:
- The passengers on the boat - all mature, respected professionals in their thirties - had consumed very little alcohol and considered themselves sober.
- None of them saw the barge. They did not brace for impact and could not identify what they had hit - even after impact - as they desperately worked to direct the first responders coming to their aid.
We are immensely thankful for the outpouring of love and concern by so many friends, neighbors and even strangers.
So many caring people have asked, "What can I do?"
We will never understand why this happened, but we do seek to understand exactly what happened that horrible night.
To do that, we have a specific request of boaters who have firsthand knowledge of the barges our loved ones struck:
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 . (That's darkbarges with an "s.")
We remain so grateful to the Rockland County Sheriff's department and all the first responders who searched for and recovered Lindsey and Mark, as well as the medical personnel who came to the aid of their injured friends.
We are devastated by the irreparable damage that has been done to the lives of so many. None of our lives will ever be the same.
Thank you for keeping our families - and the families of all those affected by this accident in your prayers.
Carol Stewart-Kosik, mother of Lindsey Stewart
Walter Kosik, step-father of Lindsey Stewart
Kevin and Dympna Lennon, parents of Mark Lennon