The Nyack boater who passed along a message of concern to local and state officials just hours before last Friday’s deadly powerboat crash has spoken with Patch, sounding off on the accident.
“[The Hudson] becomes a recreational boating area during the summer,” said Michael Hortens, 63, noting the increased number of watercrafts, and sprawling construction barges floating beneath the Tappan Zee Bridge, are a dangerous combination.
“They’re like brick walls on the river,” he added, referring to the barges.
Hortens has lived on the Hudson his whole life, and took up sailboating about six years ago, he told Patch. He is a member of the Hook Mountain Yacht Club in Nyack.
“I was sad [learning about the crash], but I wasn’t surprised,” Hortens added. “All you need is one dark object in the river, and you have an accident.”
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Drawing from his own experience, Hortens said the barges could be better lit at night, and said officials should more effectively communicate with boaters about the dangers.
“I think there’s potential for more accidents,” Hortens said.
Hortens first expressed his anxiety to officials on July 8—some 18 days before the crash that killed Mark Lennon and Lindsey Stewart—in an email to Nyack mayor Jen Laird-White. A FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request filed by Patch provided access to the conversation. Hortens wrote about the “potential for collisions with speed boats, jet skis and even sailboats.”
Laird-White then forwarded the information to the state. Weeks later—and just hours before the accident—Hortens reached out again, informing Laird-White that he had spoken with Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC officials overseeing construction.
“I believe a lot in Murphy’s Law,” Hortens told Patch.
Patch spoke with state officials, who said they had received just this one complained. Officials also said the barge was where it was supposed to be, and properly lit.
The powerboat's driver—Jojo John of Nyack—is facing a slate of felony charges, including vehicular manslaughter in the first degree. Officials with the Rockland County Sheriff's department said they suspect he was intoxicated.