NEW YORK – A boater who was accused of a fatal speedboat accident has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide, marking the first time in New York that the charge has been levied against a boat operator.
According to prosecutors, Brian Andreski had been operating his 25-foot speedboat while under the influence of alcohol on the morning of June 23 when he crashed into a fishing vessel, killing victim Christopher Mannino.
Andreski pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday and in an unlikely turn of events, the state’s aggravated vehicular homicide law, which was adopted in 2007, was applied to the case. The law is usually reserved for motor vehicle drivers whose blood alcohol level is at least 0.18 percent at the time of a crash, if the driver has a suspended or a revoked license or when more than one person is killed or sustains a serious injury.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, who presided over the case, explained that applying the statute to a boating accident was “novel,” but because of the severity of the incident, the law applied to the case.
“There’s no question that there is a high level of intoxication, and there’s no question that there is reckless driving,” said Spota, adding that these were all factors that applied to the case under the statute.
What not many individuals are aware of is that DUI (Driving Under the Influence) laws apply to those operating any type of motor vehicle. Since a speedboat is in fact considered a motor vehicle, operators may be charged with DUI, OUI (Operating Under the Influence) or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) in connection to any incident that occurs while at sea.
Andreski’s blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent shortly after the crash, which is over twice the legal limit in the state of .08 percent. He now faces up to 32 years in prison for multiple charges, including vehicular manslaughter, reckless operation of a vessel and misdemeanor Boating Under the Influence (BUI).
While the fatal watercraft accident was tragic, the incident caught the attention of state Senator Charles Fuschillo, who now plans to introduce legislation that would increase penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol and/or illicit substances. If it passes, Fuschillo’s new law would create a new crime – aggravated BUI – which would apply when a boater’s blood alcohol level is 0.18 percent or above.
“Boats operated by intoxicated individuals are as dangerous a weapon as cars driven by drunk drivers,” said Fuschillo. “Our laws do not reflect that right now, and that must change.”
Operating a boat or other personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an extremely serious charge, regardless of where the incident takes place. Anyone who is injured or suffers the loss of a loved one because of a drunken boater is entitled to seek legal help.
Our boat accident lawyers have over 165 years of combined experience successfully litigating accidents at sea, including OUI, OWI and DUI cases, and will fight for your rights to ensure you obtain the maximum compensation possible for your injuries or losses.