Police believe that the six victims were traveling north at high speed, in shallow water just ten or 15 yards off the eastern shore of the river around 4:30 a.m. on July 10 when the 19-foot Chris-Craft boat plowed into a concrete footing just north of the village of Tivoli.
Robert P. Macarthur, 27, Deena C. Cordero, 26 and Jay J. Bins, 41, all of Kingston, and John J. Uvino, 26, of Saugerties were killed in the crash. Uvino was ejected from the boat and likely drowned. The other dead were found on board the smashed boat. It is unclear whether the victims were killed on impact or died during the estimated two-hour interval between the crash and when authorities were called to the scene.
Two survivors, Jessica K. Hotaling, 27, of Hyde Park and Joseph J. Vehnick, 23, of Kingston made it off the boat and onto the rocky and isolated shoreline. According to police, Vehnick managed despite serious injuries including a broken jaw, fractured pelvis and internal injuries to crawl across two sets of railroad tracks and up a steep 20-foot embankment covered in rocks and brush before making his way to a large river estate. Finding the house deserted, Vehnick entered an unlocked garage, where he found a phone and called 911 at 6:25 a.m.
Tivoli fire chief Marc Hildenbrand was the first rescuer on the scene. According to Hildenbrand, he initially believed when the fire company was dispatched for a boat accident at the estate that the mishap had occurred on a pond. Enroute to the scene, he received another 911 dispatch regarding a possible disabled boat on the Hudson River shoreline. Hildenbrand sent the rest of the company to the estate while he went to investigate the new report alone.
Driving along narrow access strip used by CSX railroad crews, Hildenbrand reached the crash site, where he found Hotaling collapsed on the riverbank shivering. After quickly determining that the three victims on the partially submerged boat were dead, Hildenbrand calling in additional units and turned his attention to the only survivor at the scene.
“She was shivering, she was very cold, she could barely get her name out,” said Hildenbrand. “I kept talking to her, trying to get her to breathe. She said her back hurt.”
After treating Hotaling, Hildenbrand took a second look at the crash scene. Hildenbrand noted that the front
end of the boat had been “torn off” while the passenger compartment had filled with water. He also spotted Uvino’s body submerged in the shallow water. Hotaling and Vehnick were taken to Albany Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital respectively. As of Wednesday, July 13, both victims remained hospitalized undergoing treatment for serious injuries.
With the victims evacuated and the crash site secured, the Dutchess County sheriff’s department took over and began investigating the circumstances of the crash. Lieutanant John Wattersson said that preliminary investigation revealed that unsafe speed and reckless operation appeared to be factors in the crash. Watterson added that investigators had found a number of empty beer containers on the vessel and were looking into whether alcohol played a role in the accident.
Police still do not know who was driving the boat. Watterson said that efforts to determine what happened that morning were hampered by the survivors’ serious injuries.
“We don’t know who was driving,” said Watterson. “Because of the treatment the victims are undergoing, we have had very limited opportunity to interview them. We’re going to have to wait until they’re stabilized.”
Sheriff’s detectives and members of the office’s marine unit are also trying to determine where and when the fatal voyage began. The boat is registered to Arthur Fiore of Kingston, but on Tuesday, July 12 Watterson said that investigators had not determined his relationship to the victims.