A Dix Hills man became the first person in New York State to be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in a boat crash after he was indicted Wednesday in connection with a fatal collision beneath the Robert Moses Causeway.
Brian Andreski, 26, pleaded not guilty to a 19-count indictment that also charged him with manslaughter, boating while intoxicated, forgery and tax fraud.
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota acknowledged that vehicular homicide charges were "novel" in a boating case. If Andreski is convicted, higher courts likely will have to rule on whether a boat fits the legal definition of a motor vehicle and whether a navigation channel is a public highway.
"The statute is not entirely clear," Spota said. If convicted of all charges, Andreski faces a maximum of 102/3 to 32 years in prison.
Andreski, drunk and high on cocaine, was heading west at 60 to 80 mph in a 26-foot Skater speedboat equipped with a pair of 200-hp engines, Spota said.
In court, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino said Andreski told police he'd had five beers at a barbecue on Ocean Beach.
As the boats headed toward the bridge, Spota said, Andreski's boat veered left. The fishing boat's captain, Richard Leigh Jr., tried to get out of the way, but the speedboat hit Leigh's vessel broadside, creating a deep gash and hitting Mannino in the head and chest.
Andreski was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit. There were also traces of cocaine in his blood, Spota said.
Citing a dangerous rise in drunken boating incidents on Long Island waters, the district attorney said: "We have to be aggressive prosecuting these kinds of cases."
"This is obviously a terrible tragedy for both families," said Andreski's attorney, Eric Sills, of Albany. The Andreski family left court without commenting.
Mannino's family and friends, many of them wearing bright-green T-shirts demanding "JUSTICE," were pleased to see Andreski jailed.
"You don't get into a boat and drive drunk," said Mannino's sister, Nicole Altmann, of West Babylon. "They should have the death penalty."
During the investigation of the crash, prosecutors said they found that Andreski falsely reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles that he bought the boat and its trailer for $700. He actually paid $19,500, Spota said.