2 men arrested – NBC New York

Two men have been arrested for allegedly causing the deaths of a 7-year-old boy and his aunt when the boat their group had chartered for a Hudson River tour capsized in 2022, throwing more than a dozen people overboard, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Richard Cruz and Jaime Pinilla Gomez were taken into custody in Elizabeth earlier in the day and are expected to appear in federal court. Attorney information for them wasn’t immediately available.

Lindelia Vasquez, 48, and 7-year-old Julian Vasquez, were among a group of family and friends who chartered a boat out of New Jersey on July 12, 2022. They were trapped under the vessel when it flipped over in the Hudson near Pier 86, in front of the USS Intrepid in the middle of the afternoon. They later died.

Cruz had purchased the boat, which he called Stimulus Money, about three months prior and was the owner and captain. Gomez was his pilot. Both were operating the vessel the day of the accident. The two men allegedly conducted boat “tours” for paying customers onboard the vessel on multiple occasions in the months leading up to the capsizing, although they did not have the required United States Coast Guard credentials and certifications to do so.

According to prosecutors, Cruz’s and Gomez’s allegedly negligent actions and omissions caused the capsizing and, therefore, the two deaths. Aside from required documentation issues, prosecutors say Stimulus Money had 13 people on board at the time of the capsizing, which is more than the max capacity for that boat. They allege Cruz and Gomez drove the boat at a high rate of speed while small craft advisory for high winds and heavy seas advisory was in effect.

They claim Gomez lacked sufficient experience as a mariner, and piloted the boat dangerously before the capsizing, rapidly accelerating an engine and contributing to its overturning. He also allegedly wasn’t wearing a safety device, which kept the engine going even after Gomez shifted. Everyone fell overboard when the boat capsized.

Ten passengers and Gomez were recovered conscious and in varying medical conditions. Cruz was among several who were critically hurt. The bodies of Lindelia Vasquez and her nephew were found under the capsized boat about a half-hour after the others were pulled from the water. They had drowned.

Lindelia Vasquez had planned the excursion for the visiting group. She owned a restaurant in the heart of the Colombian community, of which she was a huge part, in Elizabeth.

Friends said she was generous, hardworking and kind.

In a video exclusive obtained by NBC New York, the family could be seen in Brisas Bakery and Restaurant in Elizabeth hours before boarding the doomed boat. They were buying food for what should have been a beautiful day, loading up on hundreds of dollars worth of empanadas, cheese, bread and sweets. Little Julian was seen holding an armful of frozen drinks, happy and excited for the day of cruising the Hudson.

Stimulus Money was a 24-foot Yamaha AR-240 jet boat with a top speed just below 52 mph and a 12-person capacity, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

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