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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — All six people on a powerboat were keeping their eyes on the river and not one of them saw the Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge before they struck it because there was almost no lighting, the stepfather of victim Lindsey Stewart told The Journal News on Tuesday.
"With six people looking, nobody could see the barge," Walter Kosik said. "This is a problem and it's being minimized."
Kosik was basing his comments on conversations he had with passenger Brian Bond, Stewart's fiance, who survived Friday night's crash and was set to marry Stewart on Aug. 10. Kosik said Bond also told him that he and the other passengers were all sober and consumed only about one alcoholic beverage each.
"That driver had a couple drinks in him," Kosik said. "If he was that drunk, they would not have gotten onto the boat."
They struck the barge moored in the Hudson River for the bridge replacement project at 10:40 p.m. Friday on their way from Piermont to Tarrytown. The driver, Jojo John of Nyack, 35, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. Police said he was accused of being intoxicated when he crashed the 19-foot powerboat.
Kosik said he and his wife, Carol Stewart, Lindsey's mother, were extremely upset to read a tabloid headline calling the boat ride a "booze cruise."
"Nobody was tanked like that, or sloppy drunk," he said. "It just rips our family apart."
The stepfather said the real cause of the crash was the lighting. After sitting down with the family of Mark Lennon, Bond's best man who also died in the crash, Kosik said, "The families are going to get together and talk to the media.
"What we want to talk about is the lighting on the barges," he said. "We want to pursue that because this is crazy. You've got two anchor lights, one on each side of the barge. With the glare off the bridge, you can't see it."
He added, "It's just amazing that, the following day, (New York Gov. Andrew) Cuomo put lights on those barges, lighting it up like a Christmas tree 24 hours from when they got killed."
in response to Kosik's comments, Dan Weiller, a New York state Thruway Authority spokesman, said: "The U.S. Coast Guard made it clear that the lights on the barge met all requirements and were visible for one nautical mile but, as an added precaution, Thruway had extra lights added immediately following this tragedy because we wanted to go above and beyond to try and prevent something like this from happening again."
The two other survivors of the boat wreck have been identified as Valley Cottage residents who work in the same field as Jojo John. John Schumacher, 44, works at the Chase bank branch in Orangeburg. Daniel DiIorgi, 28, works at MetLife Financial Solutions in Valley Cottage and formerly worked at Chase.
DiIorgi was released hours after the crash and was home recovering Tuesday. Robert Weyruck, his grandfather, said DiIorgi suffered a fractured nose and sinus, sore ribs and cuts to his eye.
"I'm hanging in there," DiIorgi told The Journal News. "I'm just really not up to talking right now."
Schumacher was in surgery all day Tuesday, said family lawyer John D. Pappalardo of White Plains.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those that lost their lives and all the victims here," Pappalardo said in a statement. "This was a tragic situation for everyone involved. All the victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers."
Schumacher is a vice president and private client adviser at a Chase branch in Orangeburg and a member of the Rockland Road Runners. His wife, Tracey, is a teacher at Upper Nyack Elementary School.
John, a Nyack resident, worked at a Chase branch in Valley Cottage and is still on probation from a 2010 Rockland conviction for misdemeanor drug possession.
"We are deeply saddened by the events of Friday night," a lawyer for John's family said in a statement released Tuesday. "This is a tragedy for all of us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. We hope that the privacy of all involved is respected during these troubling times."
A criminal complaint signed Saturday by the Rockland Sheriff's Office charges John, co-owner of the powerboat, with causing the death of Stewart, 30, by operating the vessel drunk or impaired by drugs. John has not yet been charged in connection with Lennon's death. A grand jury will consider the final charges.
Bond, the 35-year-old groom and an art teacher for White Plains public schools, was hospitalized with facial injuries and underwent surgery at Westchester Medical Center.
Stewart's funeral will be held Thursday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, where she and Bond planned to marry.
Contributing: Khurram Saeed and Alex Taylor