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Driver charged with manslaughter in N.Y. boat crash carrying bridal party

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published:   |   Updated: July 27, 2013 at 09:49 PM

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PIERMONT, N.Y.- A deadly nighttime speedboat crash on the Hudson River hurled a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man into the water and left the groom and three others injured, including a friend charged with vehicular manslaughter on Saturday, just two weeks before the couple was to exchange their vows.

Six friends were on board the boat Friday night when it struck a barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge, sending Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, both 30, into the water and injuring the other four, including groom-to-be Brian Bond, officials said.

A body matching Stewart's description was recovered Saturday while Lennon is presumed dead, Rockland County Sheriff's Department Chief William Barbera said. The search for Lennon's body will resume Sunday.

"The search has been suspended this evening and the tides have a lot to do with that," Barbera said. "We'll start again first thing in the morning."

Authorities charged the boat's operator, Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. He was arraigned from a hospital bed and ordered held on $250,000 bond, Barbera said. John is suspected of operating the boat while intoxicated but authorities are still awaiting the result of blood tests.

Attempts to reach John's family were not immediately successful and it was not clear if he had an attorney.

Earlier Saturday, authorities pulled a woman's body from the water that matched Stewart's description. Officials were working to confirm that the body was Stewart's but it was unclear how long that could take.

Stewart and Lennon were thrown from the boat when it struck a barge carrying materials for the construction of a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, about a half-hour's drive north of New York City.

The boat, a 21-foot Stingray, had left the village of Piermont for a short trip across the river to Tarrytown, authorities said.

Stewart, of Piermont, worked for an insurance company. She and Bond were set to be married Aug. 10, family members said.

Bond was knocked unconscious in the crash but later woke and was able to call 911, Stewart's mother, Carol said.

Stewart's stepfather, Walter Kosik, said the couple have known each other since they were young children and used to go to church together.

"They have been friends the whole time, and they fell in love about 3 1/2 years ago," Kosik said.

They were to be married at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, with a reception at a vineyard in Hillburn, he said.

Barbera declined to identify the other people aboard the boat and had no information on their conditions. He said the barge was equipped with lights, but it was still difficult to see on the water late at night.

The New York State Thruway Authority, which is overseeing the bridge project, said it was reviewing safety procedures.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time," the authority said in a statement. It added that the lighting on the barges appeared to be functioning normally.

Stewart's former English teacher at Pearl River High School, who remained in contact with her through Facebook, called the accident "heartbreaking."

"She was one of my students and a bright, sweet girl loved by everyone," said Doreen Arney. "I knew that she was getting married, and to Brian. To happen to two such special kids - it just shouldn't happen."

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