Arrests made in fatal Hudson River capsizing incident in July 2022

U.S. Coast Guard photo showing the rescue following the capsizing of Stimulus Money illegal charter
Richard Cruz and Jaime Pinilla Gomez were arrested after a fatal capsizing accident on the Hudson River in July 2022. The Coast Guard suspects illegal passenger operations and lack of necessary certifications. Capt. Zeita Merchant expressed condolences and urged vigilance against illegal charters to avoid penalties and ensure safety at sea.
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In July 2022, Richard Cruz and Jaime Pinilla Gomez, the owner and operator of the ship Stimulus Money, were arrested following a fatal capsizing accident on the Hudson River that led to the deaths of two passengers, a seven-year-old boy, and a 48-year-old woman. The two men were charged with misconduct and neglect of a ship’s officer resulting in death, a crime that could land them in prison for up to 10 years. The Coast Guard Sector New York and Coast Guard Investigative Services suspect illegal passenger operations in the incident.

The investigation revealed that the vessel did not have the required Certificate of Inspection (COI), and Gomez lacked the necessary Coast Guard-issued Merchant Marine Certificate (MMC) to operate a passenger vessel. The case has been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for possible criminal prosecution. Captain Zeita Merchant stressed the importance of owners and operators understanding their vessel’s limits and complying with safety regulations, urging passengers to verify the captain’s qualifications and the boat’s inspection status before sailing.

The Coast Guard is urging the public to be vigilant about illegal charters, emphasizing the need for vessels carrying six or more passengers to have a valid COI. Passengers are advised to check the boat’s maximum capacity sign to avoid overloading, which can affect the vessel’s stability and increase the risk of capsizing. Illegal charter operations not only violate federal law but can also result in hefty civil penalties, including fines for illegal passenger rentals, violations of Coast Guard rules, and failure to comply with safety regulations for vessels carrying passengers.

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