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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A Nyack boat owner says he wrote to the city weeks ago to express his concern that construction barges on the Hudson River near the Tappan Zee Bridge were difficult to see at night and posed a danger to recreational boaters
Michael Hortens' fears were realized Friday when a speedboat crashed into a moored barge near the bridge. The crash left two people dead and four others injured.
"It was an accident waiting to happen," Hortens told The Journal News on Thursday. "It was just a matter of time."
Hortens, 63, sent an email to Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White, who then forwarded the message to officials directly involved with the $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.
"It just seemed so potentially dangerous that I had to say something," Hortens said.
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An official with the state Thruway Authority, which maintains the Tappan Zee and is overseeing the project to build a new crossing, has previously said the bridge builder followed up on Hortens' complaint. Lights on both ends of the barges that should be visible from 1 nautical mile met U.S. Coast Guard regulations, the official said. More lights were added after the crash as a precautionary measure.
That came as little solace to Hortens. "My thinking is they should be lit up like Christmas trees," he said.
Hortens said an official from Tappan Zee Constructors, the team designing and building the new bridge, contacted him about a week after he emailed the mayor. She asked about his concerns and said she would bring them to their construction manager.
"That's the last I heard," he said.
The driver of the boat in Friday night's crash, Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, continues to recover from his injuries at a local hospital. Police have charged him with manslaughter.
Rockland County, N.Y., District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said prosecutors are waiting for the toxicology report before presenting the case against John to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, John's $250,000 bail has been reduced to zero, Zugibe said Thursday.
"He's not a flight risk and it was a prudent step to release him without bail," Zugibe said.
The boat used by the wedding party was owned by John, who kept it at the Tappan Zee Marina in Piermont.
The crashed killed bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart, 30, and her finance's best man, Mark Lennon, 30. Besides John, the injured included Stewart's fiance, Brian Bond, 35, and passengers Dan DiIorgi, 28, and John Schumacher, 44.
On Thursday, a funeral was held for Stewart at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, the place where her family had planned to celebrate her wedding.
"Next Saturday I was supposed to be sitting there and Lindsey was supposed to be up here," Stewart's mother, Carol Stewart Kosik, told the nearly 200 people sitting below her in the church sanctuary.
"Two weeks ago, I was preparing to give a toast and today … yes, this is a tragedy and tragedy is a word that will forever be linked with Lindsey and Mark. I can't separate the word tragedy from Lindsey any more than I can push a barge away," Kosik said.
Bond, Stewart's fiance, attended the service, his face bruised and one eye nearly swollen shut because of the boat wreck. He did not speak at the service.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard released its weekly Local Notice to Mariners. It contains new and more detailed information about the Tappan Zee Bridge project, including about "tugs and barges that are lit" in the construction zone.
The Coast Guard's 50-page report reminds boaters that floating construction equipment, including barge-mounted cranes, material barges, work boats, and tug boats, are near the bridge. It also offers specific coordinates for the four locations where the construction equipment will be moored.
"Mariners are advised to transit the main channel, reduce wake and use extreme caution while transiting the area in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee Bridge," the notice states in bold letters.
Contributing: Randi Weiner and Alex Taylor of The Journal News