Boat Owner And Pilot Charged In Deadly New York Boat Accident That Killed 2 Passengers

Two men found themselves facing serious charges Thursday following a tragic incident in New York City’s Hudson River back in July 2022. Richard Cruz, aged 32, and Jaime Pinilla Gomez, aged 25, were arrested and charged with one count each of misconduct and neglect of a ship officer resulting in death, as revealed by federal prosecutors from the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.

Cruz, identified as the owner of the boat, and Gomez, the designated pilot, were implicated in the capsizing of the vessel, leading to the deaths of two individuals.

According to details outlined in a criminal complaint obtained by CNN, the accident resulted in all 13 passengers being thrown overboard. Tragically, two individuals, Julian Vasquez, 7, and Lindelia Vasquez, 48, were found trapped beneath the capsized boat, unconscious and ultimately succumbed to drowning, as confirmed by the New York Police Department.

Prior to the incident, Cruz and Gomez had been conducting tours aboard the vessel named “Stimulus Money” for paying customers. However, investigations revealed that they lacked the necessary licenses required for such operations. The complaint further alleged that the duo violated several federal regulations in the operation of the boat, including exceeding the maximum passenger capacity, lacking the required certification for carrying paying customers, and operating the vessel without the necessary inspection.

It was revealed that the boat’s operating manual expressly prohibited carrying more than 12 people at a time, underscoring the disregard for safety protocols exhibited by Cruz and Gomez. Additionally, it was noted that there was a weather advisory in effect for New York Harbor at the time of the accident, warning against navigation in hazardous conditions, particularly for inexperienced mariners. Despite this, Cruz and Gomez were accused of driving the boat at excessive speeds during adverse weather conditions, further compounding the recklessness of their actions.

In response to the developments, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, condemned the defendants’ disregard for safety regulations, emphasizing the tragic consequences of their actions. He highlighted the importance of adhering to federal regulations designed to ensure the safety of passengers aboard commercial vessels, underscoring the severity of the situation resulting from the defendants’ negligence.

Cruz and Gomez face a maximum potential sentence of 10 years, as stated in the news release. Meanwhile, the boat, Stimulus Money, was recovered from the Hudson River by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the NYPD, marking a somber conclusion to the tragic incident.

In the wake of the accident, New York City Mayor Eric Adams expressed condolences to those affected, describing the incident as a “devastating moment” for the victims and their families. Despite efforts to reach out to the Vasquez family, no response has been received at the time of reporting.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the case serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of adhering to safety regulations and exercising caution when operating commercial vessels, particularly in hazardous conditions.