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Southold Town faces $55M in lawsuits from fatal boat crash in Mattituck

The U.S. Coast Guard and local police patrolled

The U.S. Coast Guard and local police patrolled the waters on the Great Peconic Bay in Mattituck the morning after a boat crash that killed one person aboard and injured three others. Credit: John Roca

Two of the three people injured in a November boating accident in Mattituck that killed one person onboard are suing Southold Town for a combined $55 million, according to notices of claim filed recently.

Through his Riverhead-based attorney, Jamesport resident Nick Soullas filed a $25 million notice of claim dated Feb. 7 with the Southold Town Clerk’s office, according to a copy of the notice. 

Soullas was one of four people onboard a powerboat on Nov. 10, 2019, at the entrance of James Creek. The 39-foot boat slammed into a bulkhead west of the creek, according to police. The accident killed Kelley Blanchard, 27, of Riverhead. Blanchard’s sister, Megan Blanchard, 29, of New Suffolk, was injured, along with Soullas, 41, and Frank DiStefano, 48, of East Northport.

The notice alleges the town “negligently maintained or failed to maintain the navigational aids, buoys and marine markers at or about” the entrance to James Creek.

In a Feb. 22 interview, Frank Blangiardo, Soullas’ attorney, said his client has since required multiple surgeries, including pelvic replacement procedures, and had been in rehabilitation. Blangiardo said his client’s medical bills could end up totaling more than $250,000.

“The poor guy’s in bad shape,” Blangiardo said. “He’s been doing a lot of rehab, and he’s really suffering. He just goes from one surgery to the next.”

Blangiardo added that the accident was “tragic because this is a very small community and everyone loved Kelley Blanchard. She was a lovely girl.”

Blangiardo said the town was expected to request a statutory hearing, or a 50-H hearing, which allows the town to ask questions of the claimants relative to the accident and the extent of the injuries or damages. After the plaintiffs give their depositions, or sworn out-of-court testimonies, they will be free to file their complaints with the New York State Supreme Court.

The $30 million notice of claim filed Feb. 7 by DiStefano — who is filing pro-se, or representing himself — also alleged the town neglected to maintain those navigational aids near the creek entrance.

DiStefano did not return requests for comment.

DiStefano alleges in his notice that the town, through the Southold Police Department, made “libelous, false statements” about him when he was originally arrested and charged with operating the boat while intoxicated. DiStefano was later cleared of that charge when a toxicology report that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office secured showed he was not intoxicated at the time of the crash.

DiStefano said in the notice of claim that the intoxication charge exposed him to ridicule which “reflected negatively on [his] character and integrity.”

The Southold town attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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