Police: Man killed, another arrested in drunken boating accident

Nassau police say a drunken boating accident on Aug. 10, 2014 left one man dead and a boat operator from Baldwin charged with manslaughter after a fatal accident in Baldwin Bay. (Credit: Jim Staubitser)

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An outing on Baldwin Bay turned into Long Island's first boating fatality of the year when a passenger, still in the water, was struck by the vessel's propeller as an intoxicated operator started the engine, authorities said Monday.

Raymond Balboa, 53, of Baldwin, was arraigned Monday on charges of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree operating a vessel while intoxicated and operating an unregistered vessel, his 50-foot Sea Ray cabin cruiser, when Cesar Augusto Hernandez-Rodas, 34, of Bay Shore, was killed Sunday evening.

"I didn't drink, dude," a court document quotes Balboa telling a Nassau police highway patrol officer about two hours after the fatal accident.

About 10 to 14 people were on his pleasure craft in an outing for employees of a tile company that Balboa and his wife, Diana, own, court documents said.

They went out to Baldwin Bay to swim, court documents said, and shortly after 6 p.m., Balboa said he ordered his guests to get back on board, then was told that "everyone was on."

"The defendant starts the motor and begins to navigate away when screams begin from people on board and the victim," the court papers said.

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The propeller cut the victim's "lower extremities" several times, police said.

It was not immediately clear who called 911, but at 6:34 p.m., nine minutes after the incident, the boat docked at a waterfront home on nearby Irving Avenue in Freeport, where officers were waiting, Nassau police said.

Hernandez-Rodas was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, where he was pronounced dead at 7:07 p.m. Sunday, police said.

Balboa's attorney, Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre, said a witness account contradicts the police version. According to the witness, Hernandez-Rodas might have jumped into the water, leading to the fatal injury, DerGarabedian said.

The attorney said he believes Balboa, who is married with three children, acted properly. He was expected to be released after posting $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash bail.

But investigators who interviewed Balboa at Irving Avenue found he was "exhibiting signs of intoxication" in a field sobriety test at the scene, court papers said.

Shortly after 8 p.m., documents said, Balboa was still at the scene in Freeport when he told the Nassau highway patrol officer: "This whole thing is not me. I was trying to please other people. It's crazy . . . I can't believe it."

Balboa refused a breath test but later consented to a blood test at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, where he was transported after complaining of "anxiety" en route to central booking, authorities said.

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Prosecutors said they are awaiting the blood-test results to determine if Balboa was intoxicated.

Hernandez-Rodas' family could not be reached Monday for comment.

Recreational boating fatalities have dropped in New York and Long Island, state figures show. Last year, two boaters on Long Island died, compared with nine in 2012, the state said.

Just last month, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice called for the need to strengthen existing laws and regulations on alcohol-related boating incidents.

"This tragic death is a sad reminder that operating a boat can be just as dangerous as operating a car or motorcycle, and that we must take this risk very seriously by regulating boats just as vigorously," Rice said Monday in a prepared statement.

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With John Valenti

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