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Long IslandCrime

Police arrest Island Park man in hit-and-run boat accident

Nassau County police say Bennett M. Ragusa, 59,

Nassau County police say Bennett M. Ragusa, 59, of Island Park, left, crashed his high-performance powerboat, right, into a smaller vessel in Reynolds Channel off the South Shore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, seriously injuring a woman before speeding off. Credit: NCPD; Jim Staubitser

Nassau police have arrested an Island Park man who they say rammed his high-performance powerboat into a smaller vessel in Reynolds Channel, seriously injuring a woman before speeding off.

Detectives spent days searching for the suspect in the “reprehensible” hit-and-run crash, sifting through a number of hotline tips, only to have him turn himself in Thursday morning at the Fourth Precinct.

Police said Bennett M. Ragusa, 59, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving serious physical injury under state navigation law, a felony. He is also charged with reckless endangerment.

If convicted, Ragusa faces a maximum of one to four years in prison, police said.

“I just want to see justice served,” said Matthew Scully, 50, of Island Park, whose wife Joann was injured in the crash. “This is one of the worst displays of indifference to life.”

The couple and their 13-year-old daughter Bryce were heading home from a day of clamming on Point Lookout shortly after 7 p.m. on Sunday when the collision occurred.

The cobalt blue cigarette-style boat struck from behind with so much force that it ran over part of the Scullys’ 18-foot motorboat.

Matthew Scully said his family and two friends were traveling at about 5 mph — the posted speed limit for the channel, which separates Long Beach from mainland Nassau.

Until the moment of impact, Scully said, it was so relaxing on the water that his wife was meditating in the back of the boat.

“We didn’t hear anything,” he said — until it was too late.

The cigarette boat driver hit the Scullys’ vessel on its right side at about 35 mph, Matthew Scully said, with the hull of the bigger boat sliding over the engine and knocking Joann Scully to the floor. A jutting center console kept the boat’s weight from crushing her, he said.

Police said the bigger boat “backed off” and fled the scene, heading west in the channel toward Oceanside.

“It is reprehensible conduct,” Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a Nassau County Police Department spokesman, said Thursday. “Anytime you do cause such accident, you should stay and render assistance.”

Matthew Scully recalled in disgust how the other boat driver “looked at me in my eyes, grabbed his throttle and sped away.”

Scully said he drove his damaged boat, which began taking on water, toward the emergency department at the old Long Beach Medical Center site, a short distance away. When he couldn’t find an access point to deliver his injured wife, he decided to call 911 and go home instead.

Joann Scully suffered broken ribs, a fractured spine, several burns and head trauma, her husband said.

The Island Park Fire Department took her to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside for treatment. A family friend who was on board was admitted for minor injuries.

The hospital released Joann Scully on Wednesday, and she is currently at home on bed rest.

Bryce Scully and another young passenger were not injured, but Matthew Scully said he is concerned about lingering emotional trauma.

“This was so traumatic for me, I can’t imagine for a 13-year-old to see her mom like that,” Scully said.

LeBrun said the accident investigation is continuing and there is no indication that Ragusa was intoxicated.

Records show that Ragusa has a 2003 conviction in Queens for falsifying business records.

He was released on a ticket to appear Sept. 21 in First District Court in Hempstead.

With Nicole Fuller


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