Boater who hit jetty appears in court, body found may be missing passenger

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
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Jack Benjamin, arrested for allegedly boating while intoxicated after a crash that left a passenger presumed dead, appeared in Long Island court.

SAYVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- A man arrested for allegedly boating while intoxicated after a crash that left a passenger presumed dead appeared in court on Long Island Tuesday.

Police say 25-year-old Jack Benjamin was operating a boat in the Great South Bay in Sayville around 1 a.m. Monday when he hit a jetty, sending 26-year-old Nelson Matos flying overboard.

According to prosecutors, Benjamin had slurred speech and was unsteady.

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He refused to submit to blood test at the hospital, and a warrant obtained for a blood test.

Results are pending.

A multi-agency search recovered a body near the jetty where the incident happened, but so far, police have not confirmed the body is Matos.

Matos's childhood friend Thomas Maglaras drove on Tuesday from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to visit the water where he went missing.

"I just hope they find him," Maglaras told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne. "We need that closure."

Benjamin, who appeared in court with a cast on his right arm, has no prior arrests.

He is charged with Boating While Intoxicated, but upgraded charges are expected.

In his written statement to police, Benjamin said he had three White Claws while hanging out with friends on Fire Island.

"The boat all of a sudden stopped," Benjamin wrote. "I fell onto my knees. Everyone was screaming. A short time later, the police and ambulance came. Everyone got off the boat. I couldn't see Nelson. My sister yelled, 'Where's Nelson?'"

Benjamin's attorney, William Keahon, said Benjamin has known Matos since kindergarten.

"The only thing that Jack and his family are thinking about is the young man and his family," he said.

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The judge says Benjamin tried to avoid prosecution by refusing the blood test and set bail at $50,000 cash/$100,000 bond.

His license was also suspended.

Benjamin's family posted bail on Tuesday, and Benjamin left the courthouse with his father.

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