7-year-old and woman drown after tour boat flips, feds say. Captain and pilot charged

The men in charge of a tour boat that flipped and fatally trapped a child and woman underneath in New York’s Hudson River were arrested, federal prosecutors said.

Richard Cruz, the owner and captain of the boat, and Jaime Pinilla Gomez, the boat’s pilot, are accused of causing the drowning deaths of the 7-year-old boy and 48-year-old woman in July 2022.

Information regarding their legal representation wasn’t immediately available March 7.

In the months before the boat named “Stimulus Money” capsized, Cruz and Gomez made money running boat tours but lacked credentials and certifications required by the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

On July 12, 2022, a group of family members boarded the boat for a tour of the New York Harbor and the Hudson River, a complaint says. The harbor is surrounded by Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, three New York City boroughs.

However, Cruz and Gomez overloaded the boat beyond its maximum capacity, according to prosecutors.

With 13 people on board, including Cruz and Gomez, the men “operated Stimulus Money at a high rate of speed during a Small Craft Advisory in high winds and heavy seas,” prosecutors said.

“Gomez, an insufficiently experienced mariner, piloted Stimulus Money in a dangerous manner, including by rapidly accelerating one engine of the vessel immediately before the capsizing, which contributed to the overturning of the vessel,” prosecutors added.

The boat ultimately capsized and everyone was tossed into the Hudson River, according to prosecutors.

About 25 minutes later, the boy and woman were found unconscious underneath the boat after they became trapped, prosecutors said.

The New York City Fire Department’s Dive Rescue Team recovered them from the water, and they were pronounced dead by emergency medical personnel, according to the attorney’s office, which said their causes of death were drowning.

The capsized boat.
The capsized boat.

Cruz, 32, and Gomez, 25, were arrested March 7 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where they’re from, the attorney’s office said.

They’re both charged with one count of misconduct and neglect of a ship officer resulting in death, according to prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams accused the men of flouting federal regulations and safety protocols.

They “recklessly disregarded safety protocols, operated the vessel at an unsafe speed in hazardous conditions, and overloaded the vessel with too many passengers onboard,” Williams said in a statement. “And the result was tragic.”

The boat being recovered from the Hudson River.
The boat being recovered from the Hudson River.

If Cruz and Gomez are convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

The attorney’s office encourages the public to report tips about illegal passenger boats to the U.S. Coast Guard here.

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