BY JIM FITZGERALD
---- — PIERMONT, N.Y. — A day after a bride-to-be was pulled dead from the Hudson River, the body of her fiance’s best man was found a mile downstream yesterday, the second victim of a nighttime crash involving a speedboat and a barge north of New York City.
The deadly collision left the groom-to-be grieving for his intended and his best friend, while facing surgery for his own injuries as another friend is charged with manslaughter — two weeks before the wedding day.
“I don’t think you can put words to what we have to tell these families,” Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said as he announced that a body believed to be that of Mark Lennon, 30, the best man, was found yesterday morning.
At the church where Lindsey Stewart and Brian Bond, both 30, would have been married Aug. 10, the pastor said their lives “were filled with hopes and dreams, and that has been snuffed away.”
Stewart, Bond, Lennon and three others were on a speedboat that crashed Friday night into a barge holding equipment for the construction of a replacement for the Tappan Zee.
The group had left the village of Piermont for a short trip aboard the 21-foot Stingray across the river to Tarrytown, about 30 miles north of New York City, authorities said.
Police said it was being piloted by Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, who they suspect was intoxicated and who has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault.
Stewart and Lennon were thrown off the boat. When the bodies were found, they did not have life vests on, said Sheriff’s Department Chief William Barbera.
Bond, John and two others, whose names have not been made public because they are witnesses, were injured and hospitalized.
One of the witnesses has been released from the hospital, Falco said yesterday. Mitchell Turk, a friend of Bond’s family, said Bond would be undergoing surgery today.
Turk, of Orangetown, said he visited with Bond’s mother yesterday at her Pearl River home.
“It’s sad and quiet there, long faces,” he said. “They’re trying to carry on, doing as well as can be expected. I’m a little shaken. When you think of what they’ve lost, a daughter-in-law, Brian injured, it’s tough.”
Turk’s daughter, Sheryl Palacio, said she has known Bond, an art teacher, all her life.
“He’s an outstanding teacher, a wonderful, kind, respectful man,” she said.
She said Lennon was Bond’s best friend and John was “his other best friend.” She described the suspect as “a good man, happy and loving.”
She said John “would never, ever want to put his friends in danger.”
“I just hope Brian is able to move past this,” she added.
It was not clear if John had an attorney. Falco said a mug shot of John released yesterday was from a previous arrest, but he would not elaborate.
At Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, where Stewart and Bond had planned to get married, the Rev. John Havrilla said he remembered them as children. He told The Journal News that Stewart, who worked for an insurance company, was an important part of the congregation.
“Her loss, and the wedding, just makes this even more of a heartache,” he said.
Falco said the body believed to be Lennon’s was discovered by a person on a recreational watercraft who then called 911. Twelve search boats were on the water at the time. The county medical examiner will have to officially identify both bodies, but police feel sure they are Stewart’s and Lennon’s.
The sheriff said the barge’s lighting would be part of the investigation of the crash. Authorities have said the barge was equipped with lights, but it was still difficult to see on the water late at night.
A spokesman for the $3.9 billion bridge project said the barges were properly lit Friday night, but lighting has since been added.
“We will determine if those barges were lit properly and if it was a factor,” Falco said.
Pre-construction work related to the new bridge was suspended for the weekend but is to resume today.