Jo John John, 36, the man at the wheel of the boat which crashed into barges near the Tappan Zee Bridge last summer, killing two, was sentenced in Rockland County Court on September 16, 2014 to two years in jail. John pled guilty earlier this year to vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of 30 year old Mark Lennon, of Pearl River, New York, and 30 year old Lindsey Stewart, of Piermont, NY, which occurred on July 26, 2013. Stewart was to be married one month later to Brian Bond, who was injured in the tragic crash. Mr. John apologized to the Stewart and Lennon families at his sentencing before receiving the two year sentence, which spares him the possibility of serving time in state prison.
Blood alcohol results revealed that Mr. John had a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) in excess of 0.15% at the time of the fatal accident, almost two times the legal limit of 0.08%. However, Mr. John, the family members of Mr. Lennon and Ms. Stewart, and other passengers on the boat who were injured but survived, contend that poorly lit barges used in the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge were equally, if not more responsible for the tragic accident and have all commenced civil lawsuits against the New York State Thruway Authority.
These family members, including Ray Lennon, the brother of Mark Lennon, have called the sentencing of Mr. John “incomplete justice”, and have urged Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe to bring criminal charges against the barge owners. However, Mr. Zugibe stated in a press conference this week that police investigators and a grand jury examined the evidence and found that the sole factor in the fatal crash was John’s intoxication at the time of the accident. According to Zugibe, “We believe John was solely responsible. He was operating the boat at a high rate of speed in the dark. It was like operating a vehicle with his eyes closed.”
Mr. John has other issues to contend with in addition to his jail term for the vehicular manslaughter charges. The Stewart family and the Lennon’s family are bringing wrongful death lawsuits against Mr. John and the barge owners, and the surviving passengers have all commenced personal injury actions against those same parties. Mr. John’s plea to the vehicular manslaughter charge is admissible against him in any civil action, and ultimately, whatever liability insurance coverage he has for the boat will be exhausted in payment of the numerous claims against him. Hopefully for Mr. John, the NYS Thruway Authority and other owners of the barges will contribute to a potential settlement of the wrongful death and personal injury claims. If not, and these cases proceed to trial, Mr. John will be facing the possibility of claims against his personal assets, assuming he has any assets which could be seized to satisfy wrongful death and personal injury judgments.
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