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Hudson River Crash Survivors Say Construction Lighting Inadequate

Jul 31, 2013

Following the horrific Hudson River boat crash that killed a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best friend, the parents of Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, who both died in the crash, released a statement to Eyewitness News as they plan wakes and funerals for the two, according to media outlets.

The families said they are "shattered by the horrible accident" and seek a clearer understanding of what happened the night of the tragedy, according to WABC. The investigation is ongoing.

Stewart and Lennon were passengers on a speedboat that crashed into a barge that contained equipment for the Tappan Zee Bridge reconstruction project, according to CBSNewYork. Four other people, including Stewart's fiancé, Brian Bond, suffered injuries. Stewart and Bond were to be married on August 10, according to WABC.

"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," the families wrote. "We will never understand why this happened, but we do seek to understand exactly what happened that horrible night." The statement noted that the victims "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."

Jojo John, who was operating the 19-foot boat during the deadly crash, has been charged with vehicular homicide in Stewart’s death. No charges have yet been made over Lennon’s death, according to WABC. Survivors are beginning to return home from the hospital.

"This is a difficult time for our family. Our hearts are broken. He was just devastated for everybody involved," said John Schumacher's wife. Schumacher was among the injured, WABC reported. His wife told Eyewitness News that her husband wants the truth about the lighting conditions on the construction barge to be released. Friends of those injured and killed described the area of the barge as like a black hole on the Hudson River. “So that’s what everyone—us and the authorities—are looking into, as well as possible intoxication of the driver of the boat,” said attorney Nicholas Warywoda, according to CBSNewYork.

"He says he never saw the barge and he was looking in that direction," said Warywoda, of Parker Waichman LLP. Warywoda represents 28-year-old Daniel DiIorgi, who was injured in the crash; Dilorgi suffered serious facial injuries. "He never saw the barge before they struck it, even after they struck it he never saw the barge," Warywoda said. "The fact that he never saw it would indicate there was inadequate lighting on the barge," according to WABC.

The Thruway Authority maintains that lighting was up to code and met all Coast Guard requirements the night of the crash. Meanwhile, area locals and regular boaters say that, even before the accident, the area was simply not sufficiently lit. "Evidently there's something wrong with the code. If you can't see that barge and the only way you can see it is through radar, then maybe this accident shouldn't have happened," Warywoda said, WABC reported. Investigators are looking at the speed of the boat, as well as the tide and weather conditions, and the barge’s lighting, according to CBSNewYork.

Stewart's parents wanted to bury Lindsey in her wedding gown, but the extent of her injuries necessitates a closed casket. The Rockland County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Lindsey died from head trauma and drowning. Lindsey’s family hopes Bond will be able to attend the funerals. He was in critical condition and suffered severe injuries to an eye socket and face. As for Lennon, the Medical Examiner’s Office said he died from drowning. Toxicology results are pending, according to CBSNewYork. The survivors say that the passengers consumed minimal alcohol and were described as sober.

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