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NYC tour boat duo ‘recklessly’ overbooked vessel that capsized in Hudson River, killing 7-year-old and woman: prosecutors

Two tour boat operators were charged in the deaths of a 7-year-old boy and his aunt who were killed in 2022 when their speeding, overcrowded ship capsized in the Hudson River off Manhattan.

Richard Cruz, 32, and Jaime Pinilla Gomez, 35, were arrested Thursday in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and face up to 10 years behind bars on one count of misconduct and neglect of a ship officer resulting in death, according to federal prosecutors.

Gomez was operating the 24-foot Yamaha AR-240 jet boat named Stimulus Money on July 12, 2022, when it flipped and ejected all 13 passengers into the water off the coast of the Big Apple.

Rescue crews scrambled to save 11 people from the boat that capsized in the Hudson River near Pier 86 in July 2022. Two people were found dead, trapped under the 24-foot vessel. (Kevin C. Downs for The New York Post )
Rescue crews scrambled to save 11 people from the boat that capsized in the Hudson River near Pier 86 in July 2022. Two people were found dead, trapped under the 24-foot vessel. (Kevin C. Downs for The New York Post )

Cruz had just bought the vessel three months earlier, and the boat tour had not been certified or credentialed by the US Coast Guard.

The duo had exceeded the vessel’s maximum allowable capacity and Gomez was recklessly operating the boat at a “high rate of speed” during a Small Craft Advisory in high winds and heavy seas, prosecutors said.

Gomez, an “insufficiently experienced mariner,” had “rapidly accelerated” one of the boat’s engines before the craft capsized, and “failed to properly wear a safety device that should be worn around the pilot’s wrist or life vest,” a failure that allowed the vessel to keep running even after the captain was ejected, according to a press release.

As ferries and emergency vessels swarmed the disaster scene near Pier 84, NYPD and FDNY divers found young Julian Vasquez and his aunt Lindelia Vasquez trapped under the boat and unconscious.

Lindelia Vasquez and her 7-year-old nephew Julian perished in the disaster.
Lindelia Vasquez and her 7-year-old nephew Julian perished in the disaster.
Julian Vasquez, right.
Julian Vasquez, right.

Officials ruled the pair — who had been visiting New York from Florida and Colombia — had drowned.

“Federal regulations and safety protocols exist to ensure that captains and operators of commercial vessels keep passengers safe,” said US Attorney Damian Williams.

“The defendants allegedly flouted those regulations, recklessly disregarded safety protocols, operated the vessel at an unsafe speed in hazardous conditions, and overloaded the vessel with too many passengers onboard.  And the result was tragic — a young boy and a woman were trapped under the vessel and drowned after the vessel capsized.”