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DA: Boat operator’s BAC under legal threshold for criminal charge

11/22/2019 2:12 PM |

A toxicology report showed the operator of a 39-foot Cobalt that struck a bulkhead two weeks ago, killing a Riverhead woman onboard, did not have a blood alcohol content above the legal threshold to warrant a criminal charge, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Southold Town police initially charged Frank Distefano, 48, of East Northport with boating while intoxicated after the fatal crash on Nov. 10 in Mattituck. Police had indicated additional charges could also be filed. Evidence would typically need to be presented to a grand jury to add any upgraded charges.

An arraignment on the BWI charge was originally scheduled for Friday, but that did not happen.

In a statement to the News-Review, a DA spokesperson said: “The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office secured a court order to test blood which was drawn from the suspected operator immediately upon his arrival to the hospital. The toxicology report indicated that the blood alcohol content was under the legal threshold for a criminal charge.

“This crash remains under criminal investigation, including a thorough, forensic analysis of all the available evidence. Law enforcement is asking anyone with information to call the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office at (631) 853-4161.”

The crash claimed the life of 27-year-old Kelley Blanchard and seriously injured her sister Megan, who is 29.

Services for Ms. Blanchard were held Monday as she was laid to rest. Megan was able to attend the services.

A 41-year-old Jamesport man, Nick Soullas, was also injured in the crash.

Mr. Distefano was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital for his injuries.

Southold police Chief Martin Flatley said Friday he was unsure of the district attorney’s timeline in the case, but added that they are actively investigating.

Police responded to the scene near Old Salt Road in the area of James Creek in Mattituck at about 9:17 p.m. Nov. 10. The boat had slammed into the bulkhead fronting Great Peconic Bay. The vessel was approximately 150 feet from the shoreline with four people onboard when first responders arrived.

Police had said there was “substantial damage to both the bulkhead and the vessel indicating that the collision occurred at significant speed.”

Photo caption: The damaged bulkhead pictured the afternoon after the crash. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

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