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Hudson River Boat Crash Victims' Families Ask For Information

Doug Kerr, flickr

The investigation continues into a fatal boat crash in the Hudson River on Friday. The families of the victims say the investigation should focus on lighting, not alcohol. But state authorities say lighting was in compliance. In the meantime, family members went from planning a wedding to holding funerals.

The bodies of a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man were pulled from the Hudson River over the weekend. The speedboat they and four others were in had collided with a moored construction barge – there for work on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The families of the victims issued a letter Wednesday, asking to learn more about what happened that night. They say after speaking with the survivors, it is clear that no one saw the barge and passengers did not brace for impact. The Rockland County District Attorney's Office is working with the Rockland County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies to determine the circumstances of the July 26 nighttime incident. Charles Rowe is a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard.

A Thruway Authority spokesman declined to speak on air, but in a written statement said, quote, “The U.S. Coast Guard made it clear that the lights on the barge met all requirements and were visible for one nautical mile but, as an added precaution, extra lights were added immediately following this tragedy because we wanted to go above and beyond to try and prevent something like this from happening again.” End of quote.

Democratic state Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, himself a boater, represents portions of Westchester County, including areas along the Hudson River, like Tarrytown, across from the Rockland site of the crash.

Thruway officials say that after the incident, dozens of extra LED solar/battery powered lights were added to all barges, moorings, and other vessels as a precaution.

Rockland’s district attorney says cellphone video shot by one of the survivors shows the last few seconds before the vessel crashed into the barge. He says it is difficult to tell if the video shows the actual impact. He notes the cellphone also briefly recorded audio of the crash and its impact, and he’ll be looking for clues in the video and audio.

Abinanti says there should be an investigation beyond the one currently being conducted by the district attorney and law enforcement.

The boat’s operator is charged with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. The district attorney says he is seeking upgraded charges and awaiting results of toxicology tests. The victims’ families say the boat’s passengers consumed very little alcohol. They are requesting that boaters with firsthand knowledge of the barges at the crash site send an e-mail to an address they’ve set up to collect this information.

Thruway officials say about two dozen barges of varying sizes are currently in the Hudson River as part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project, yet the number changes almost daily. More are scheduled to arrive shortly to begin dredging.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press and WAMC.

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