Homicide Indictment in New York Harbor Boating Accident

A boating accident two years ago in New York Harbor has led to the indictment of a New York investment banker, who is now charged with criminally negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter, assault, and operating a vessel while his ability to operate is impaired as a result of the consumption of alcohol. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday. The victim was a 30-year old man who had just received his doctorate degree and was scheduled to be married a month later.

Richard Aquilone blamed a sightseeing boat for the collision, raising a huge wake that made it impossible for him to see the 17-foot sailboat of Jijo Puthuvamkunnath, who was killed when struck by Aquilone’s 30-foot boat. Prosecutors, however, say that Aquiline, a managing director of a private equities firm, was operating his vessel while impaired by alcohol. A breath test administered after the incident showed a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .06.

As is the case with driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the New York Navigation Law prohibits intoxicated boating. The applicable statute, NY Nav. Law § 49-a, reads in pertinent part as follows:

“No person shall operate a vessel upon the waters of the state while his ability to operate such vessel is impaired by the consumption of alcohol. . . . No such person shall operate a vessel other than a public vessel while he has .10 of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol in his blood, breath, urine, or saliva, as determined by the chemical test made pursuant to the provisions of subdivision seven of this section.”

The boating law parallels the DUI statute. The only significant difference is that the “legal limit” for a driver’s BAC is .08. In the case of a vessel, the limit is .10. (The BAC limit for operation of a public vessel is .04).

Based upon what we have seen, the result, should the case go to trial, may well hinge on the issue of impairment. We would expect that the defense will not lose an opportunity to point out that after the accident it was Aquilone who notified the Coast Guard of what happened, and then assisted at the scene. More importantly, for purposes of defending against the charges, even after the BAC results were in, law enforcement officials had no problem allowing Aquilone to pilot the boat home with his wife and children on board. Time will tell how the case turns out.

George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 682-0700