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Deadly boat accident on the Hudson River

July 29, 2008 4:06:12 PM PDT
A frantic rescue recovered four people trapped under a capsized boat in the Hudson River overnight, but a fifth did not make it. The 26-foot boat, southbound from Newburgh, apparently flipped in the middle of the river at around 11:16 p.m. Monday night after running aground.

From under the capsized boat, one of the victims was apparently able to place two calls to 911 for help on a cellular telephone, telling the operator that he and his companions were trapped under the boat. The Putnam County E-911 Center received the calls, but the connection was lost both times.

The 911 Center was able to determine an approximate location of the boat and issued a callout of numerous police and rescue agencies, dispatching patrol boats, helicopters and land vehicles from Putnam, Orange, Rockland and Westchester Counties to join in a search for the victims.

It reportedly took more than an hour for rescuers to find the boat. It was finally found off the Garrison Boat Ramp in Garrison at 12:22 a.m.

Officials say two people were rescued from the Putnam County side of the river. One was taken by helicopter and another taken by ground to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

Two others were rescued from the Orange County side of the river. One was taken by helicopter to Westchester Medical Center, and another was taken to an Orange County hospital.

The three people at Westchester Medical Center, all adults, were in critical condition. A fifth person was pronounced dead at the scene. The fatality was identified as 25-year-old Steven Vasta, of Mahopac. The other occupants have been identified as 26-year-old Marco Almeida, 27-year-old Sean Morris, 25-year-old John Downey III and his fiancee, 23-year-old Vanessa Santos.

They were reportedly on their way back to Westchester following dinner on the pier in Newburgh.

The boat remains overturned and aground on the Orange County side.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is the lead agency in the investigation.

Investigators say that the darkness of night and the shallowness of the river in the area were listed as apparent causes in the accident. Based upon preliminary findings, they say alcohol intoxication does not appear to be a factor in the mishap.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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