All charges have been dropped against the 18-year-old Douglas Manor resident who was accused of causing a fatal boat accident on Little Neck Bay last week, in what the Queens District Attorney’s office is now calling a tragic accident.
to a spokesperson from the Queens District Attorney’s office, Robert
Arnold was cleared of all three BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) charges on
July 18. The
teen had refused a breathalyzer test at the scene of the accident, but a
court-ordered blood alcohol test administered four hours after the July 11
incident showed he was not legally intoxicated on the night of the crash.
spokesperson said, “The facts showed he was not BWI. That’s all we can
spokesperson could not comment on whether or not the DA would be pursuing
any other charges in the future in reference to the crash.
As the sun glistened on a calm Little Neck Bay this week, a storm cloud of shock and intrigue hovered over neighboring Douglas Manor, where residents have been overwhelmed and confused by a tragic boat accident that claimed the lives of two people.
accident, which occurred in Little Neck Bay on July 11, was the only topic
of conversation at the Douglaston Yacht Club in Douglas Manor this week,
with members strongly defended 18-year-old Robert Arnold, who was originally
accused of causing the horrific accident by drinking before operating his
mother’s 18-foot Sea Ray boat.
a court-ordered blood alcohol test showed he was not legally intoxicated,
fingers were still pointing at Arnold, who was allegedly speeding and doing
360s in the Marina before the boat he was operating reportedly slammed into
another boat. 17-year-old Little Neck resident George Lawrence and
35-year-old Elmont resident John Kondogianis died in the crash.
Questions have surfaced about the safety of boating in Little Neck Bay, where more and more teenagers are driving and licenses are not required. And as the PRESS went to press, questions remained about the contents of the boat that was hit and the criminal record of the boat driver who was killed.
boating safety expert told the PRESS that Arnold still
may have been breaking some rules of the water, and police said he could
still be charged with reckless endangerment.
Guard Auxiliary member Jacqueline Macinick, Immediate Past Commander of
Flotilla 12-08, has taught boating safety classes at Fort Totten for the
past four years, and participated in the search and rescue operation
following the last week’s crash. She explained that the crash happened
“on the borderline” of the Marina’s “no wake zone,” which is an
area of the Bay where speeds of over five miles per hour are not allowed for
fear that the waves created by higher speeds will disturb docked boats.
said, “From what I heard about the crash, and from the wreckage that I
saw, this boy was driving extremely close to that no wake zone. He may have
been outside of it, though, which means he was in open water, and can do
basically whatever he wants. I can do 360s all day if I’m in open
rule Macinick said Arnold might have been close to breaking is a New York
State regulation that requires boats to travel five-miles-per-hour or less
if they are 100 feet or less from the shore. Police reports say the crash
happened about 100 feet from shore. Macinick said, “If he was 100 feet
from shore or less, he should have been driving a lot slower than he was.
But again, it’s right on the border.”
said Arnold may have also broken a Federal boating safety regulation,
administered by the Office of Boating Safety, which states that boaters can
be charged a civil penalty and can face up to $5,000 in criminal fines and a
year in prison if they drive in a “grossly negligent fashion,”
including, “operating at excessive speed in the vicinity of boats in
accident was the first boat crash in New York State this year, and the first
at Bayside Marina in “recent memory,” according to a manager at the
police told the PRESS that patrols of Little Neck Bay will be
stepped up, Macinick said legislation is in the works to help keep boating
safe in New York State. A State Assembly bill has been introduced that
requires anyone under the age of 18 to have a safety certificate to operate
a boat, while another Assembly bill is trying to require a boating safety
certificate from every boater in Nassau and Suffolk County. Both are being
evaluated by the Legislature.
new pieces of information continue to surface each day to complicate the
story – including the discovery of drugs on Kondogianis’ boat – the
residents of the Manor have held the same position since the controversy
first hit their town – their boy is innocent.
a recent graduate of Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside and a National
Merit Scholar who was supposed to start college at SUNY New Paltz this fall,
was described as “a nice boy,” “a sweetheart,” “a good kid,”
“a responsible and careful young man,” and “a real smart guy” by
members of the Yacht Club, where he worked as a waiter previously.
of Arnold’s at the club said he, “loves getting out on the bay and
driving his boat,” and “is an excellent driver.” One friend said,
“Robert just can’t get enough of being out there ... He can command his
boat, that’s for sure. And he would never do anything irresponsible.
a night described as “clear as anything,” by employees at Bayside
Marina, Arnold and five friends took his mom’s 18-foot Sea Ray into Little
Neck Bay, moving at “excessive speeds,” according to a police source,
and doing “360s,” about 100 feet from shore.
teenager continued to drive the boat in that manor until about 9:45 p.m.,
when he allegedly slammed into a Bayliner carrying Kondogianis, 35, and his
wife Marisa Rodgers, 29, “almost splitting their boat in two,” police
was immediately thrown into Little Neck Bay, and was found in the shallow
waters off Fort Totten on July 15 by a local boat operator. Arnold’s best
friend Lawrence was also thrown into the water, and was found near the
Throgs Neck Bridge by Nassau County Police also on July 15.
sustained serious head injuries and was admitted to North Shore University
Hospital in critical condition. At presstime, she was still listed in
critical condition, but no other information was available. Arnold’s
friend 17-year-old Kevin Burke – a passenger in Arnold’s boat – was
treated for minor injuries from the accident at New York Hospital Medical
Center Queens, and was released on July 15.
Arnold and the three other passengers in his boat walked away from
the scene of the accident, police said that Arnold’s breath smelled like
alcohol, and the Queens District Attorney’s office said they found “some
beer bottles,” in the back of Arnold’s boat. Arnold refused a
breathalyzer test at the scene, but was given a court-ordered blood alcohol
test about four hours after the incident.
teenager was charged on three counts of Boating While Intoxicated (BWI), and
pled not guilty. On July 15, the results of his test showed that he had a
blood alcohol content of .01 percent – under the .06 percent needed to be
considered legally intoxicated. Police are still waiting to see if Arnold
was under the influence of drugs, but if not, a police source said, “It
will be awfully tough to charge him for manslaughter or something
criminally. If he wasn’t under the influence, then this was just an
accident and he wasn’t doing anything illegal.”
mother Deborah made a public statement through a lawyer that she doesn’t
believe Arnold is responsible for her son’s death, and a friend of his
standing on the dock at Bayside Marina said, “What should he be punished
for? He’s punished enough. He lost his best friend.”
beer bottles were found on Arnold’s boat, a police source told the PRESS
that crack cocaine was found on Kondogianis’ boat, adding another
complex piece to the puzzle.
drugs were found in the wreckage of the boat, and prompted the release of
Queens Supreme Court records that show Kondogianis was arrested and pled
guilty in 2000 for selling drugs and was arrested in 1999 for possessing
drug paraphernalia, marijuana and a controlled substance.
Police sources say they are still not sure if the drugs are relevant to the events surrounding the accident, or lead any credibility to the story that the boat’s lights were out. A police source said, “It’s still under investigation. Those drugs and his past may be completely irrelevant. There’s too much to consider right now to make a determination.”
law enforcement officials search for answers, friends and family members of
Lawrence and Kondogianis are scheduled to say goodbye to them this coming
week, with Lawrence’s funeral scheduled for July 19 at St. Anastasia’s
Church in Little Neck and Kondogianis’ funeral scheduled for July 20 at
St. Mary’s Nativity Church in Flushing.
presstime, family members of both victims were unavailable for comment.
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