Charges filed in deadly boat collision

July 3, 2010 9:08:37 PM PDT
Charges have been filed against a suspect accused of driving a boat that crashed into another, killing one man, Friday night near Liberty Island.

NYPD scuba divers struggled to save the victim as they raced to the shores of Jersey City.

But doctors say the force of the crash was so sudden and so traumatic, that the 30-year-old man may have been killed on impact.

It happened Friday evening just off Liberty Island, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

The victim, Jijo Punthuyamkunnath of Bergenfield, New Jersey, and two other 30-year-old men were in a small speedboat when they were broadsided by a large sport fishing boat.

"They dropped anchor at the Statue of Liberty. And what had happened is a larger water craft, a much larger boat went through them and hit them. Next thing you know they were brought here," said Tom George, the victim's cousin.

Police say 39-year-old Richard Aquilone was drinking when his 30 foot Proline crashed into the smaller 17 foot Bayliner, where the victim, a groom to be, and two of his friends were enjoying the holiday.

"He should not have been driving that boat with the alcohol," said the victim's friend, Annie Chacko.

Aquilone was relased on bail Saturday night and has entered a not guilty plea.

NYPD Harbor units were on the scene within minutes, but the victim was trapped in the mangled wreckage of his own boat.

"The two transoms were crushed down. One boat transported him here," said Sgt. John Gallagher, of the NYPD Harbor Patrol.

The two other injured men suffered a knee abrasion and a head laceration. They were listed in stable condition.

Aquilone lives in a waterfront community in Jersey City, where his neighbors had nothing but good things to say about the 39-year-old father.

"He's a wonderful man. A wonderful, wonderful man. Wonderful father," said Paula Conway.

Aquilone was charged with vehicular manslaugher, bui, and endagering the welfare of a child.