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Rockland DA: Boat Driver Involved In Fatal Hudson River Crash Was Drunk

NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The driver of a boat that crashed into a barge on the Hudson River, killing a bride-to-be and her groom's best man, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit, authorities said Thursday.

An 18-count indictment has been handed up against Jojo John in connection with the July crash near the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Rockland DA: Boat Driver Involved In Fatal Hudson River Crash Was Drunk

The charges include two counts of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and two counts of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, among others.

DA: Boat Driver Involved In Fatal Hudson River Crash Was Drunk

Authorities said in addition to his blood-alcohol level, cocaine metabolites were found in John's system.

"The defendant is accused of taking the helm of his boat while under the influence of alcohol, being unable to maintain situational awareness and striking a construction barge," Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said in a statement. "Drinking and driving is a lethal mix, as it appears to have been in this incident, which left several families shattered. My office will aggressively prosecute this case to ensure that justice is done."

Lindsey Stewart, Mark Lennon
Bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart (left) and best man Mark Lennon (right). (credit: CBS 2)

John was operating a 19-foot Stingray near Piermont on the night of July 26 when the boat struck a barge in place for the Tappan Zee Bridge reconstruction project, authorities said.

The crash killed bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon and injured four others, including John and Stewart's fiancé, Brian Bond.

Stewart and Bond would have been married two weeks later. Lennon was to be the best man.

EXTRA: Click Here To Read The Full Statement

John's defense attorney took issue with the indictment, saying they dispute the toxicology results and intend to challenge them.

"The defense investigation has uncovered substantial evidence, including physical evidence and the testimony of numerous witnesses, that the cause of this tragic accident was the poorly and inadequately lit group of barges struck by Jojo John's boat," David Narain said. "We look forward to presenting this evidence in court and establishing that Jojo John's actions did not cause the collision that led to the tragic deaths of Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon and the injuries to the other passengers."

Stewart's and Lennon's families issued a statement saying they believe the DA's investigation is misguided.

"We are disappointed that the office of the District Attorney focused its attention on the behavior of Jojo John to the exclusion of anyone else," the said. "We continue to believe that the owners and operators of the barges where this accident happened share responsibility for the happening of this accident. Not only was the lighting on the barges insufficient or non-existent on the night of this accident but the contractors using the barges were warned in advance of this tragedy that boaters operating at night in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee Bridge could not see the barges."

A grandfather of one of the crash survivors, told CBS 2's Lou Young he, too, was siding with John.

The family "feels bad about it," said Robert Weyrauch. "We hope everything turns out for him.

"No, I'm not angry with him. He's a nice person. ... It's a bad mistake," he added.

The Coast Guard said the barge's lights met federal requirements, but the bridge contractor did add more lighting to barges the day after the crash.

After the crash, police said they suspected John was intoxicated. He was arrested while recovering at Nyack Hospital.

Arraignment on the indictment is pending. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison on the top counts.

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