The 19-foot Chris-Craft bow rider was cruising outside the navigable channel on the river just north of the village of Tivoli when it hit the U-shaped concrete structure head-on about 10-yards off the eastern shore about 45 miles south of Albany, according to the Dutchess County sheriff’s office. Authorities didn’t yet know whether the boat was using lights when it crashed about 4:30 Sunday morning.
Police said alcohol may have been a factor and the victims weren’t wearing life jackets.
The boat’s bow and bottom were seriously damaged, leading authorities to believe the driver was speeding in an area where the limit is 5 mph.
Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Piastro said the boat was moving fast enough that “the engine itself was torn loose from its mounts ... and ended up in the front of the boat.”
Two people survived, including one man who climbed a 20-foot embankment and managed to find a phone at a vacant nearby estate to call 911.
Piastro said 23-year-old Joseph Vehnick, with a broken jaw, bumps bruises and a possible back injury, had likely gone a quarter- to a half-mile before finding the phone and calling for help.
“He had to travel quite a distance in that condition across the tracks, in the dark up a cliff and across the fields to get to this estate,” Piastro said. “He then had to find the garage and a phone in the garage. So that had to be some effort.”
The first rescuer on the scene said Monday he found a badly shaken woman, then saw four dead bodies in the water.
Marc Hildenbrand, fire chief in the village of Tivoli, got the call about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, two hours after the crash. An ambulance crew was dispatched to the estate where Vehnick had called 911.
Hildenbrand found Jessica K. Hotaling of Hyde Park, 27, on the shore and saw the boat half in and half out of the water, and the bodies. He started taking care of Hotaling.
“I was just trying to get her to calm down,” Hildenbrand said Monday. “She was cold.”
Hotaling was conscious and said her back hurt. She didn’t describe how the crash happened.
“She was not talking very much,” he said. “She was upset.”
Police said though the boat left from the western shore of the river, they don’t know when or how long it was on the water. They also don’t know how the victims knew each other.
Authorities found beer bottles inside the boat and believe they might have been drinking, Lt. John Watterson of the sheriff’s office said.
The boat was traveling on the wrong side of a buoy and within 100 feet of the shore, where the speed limit is 5 mph, said Sgt. Shawn Castano of the sheriff’s marine patrol.
The body of 26-year-old John J. Uvino of Saugerties was found in the water, and it appeared he was thrown from the boat on impact, Watterson said. Divers recovered the bodies of three other boaters: Robert P. Macarthur, 27, of Kingston; Deena C. Cordero, 26, of Kingston; and Jay J. Bins, 41, of Kingston.
Vehnick, of Kingston, and Hotaling suffered multiple broken bones and were being treated at hospitals.
Part of the boat was still sticking out of the water when rescuers arrived. Its bow had smashed into the concrete, which may have been part of a dock or other shoreline structure there previously.
The boat was pulled from the water and brought to an impound lot.
The powerboat, which has a single deck with no quarters below, is known as a bow rider because its passengers generally ride up front while the driver sits behind them.
The boat was registered to Arthur Fiore in Kingston. Messages were left at two phone numbers in that name Monday.