Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10) which establishes criminal penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident was passed by the State Senate.
“Safety is always our first concern with more boaters on our waterways each year. This legislation will give law enforcement the authority needed to persecute those reckless enough to leave the scene of an accident without assisting the passengers of the other vessel.” said Senator Holzapfel.
The legislation, S-2859, is modeled after current motor vehicle law, which makes it a second degree crime to leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident that results in the death of a passenger, and a third degree crime when the accident results in serious bodily injury.
A second degree crime is punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. A crime of the third degree is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Also, included in the bill are increased penalties for failure of the operator to provide assistance to anyone involved in an accident.
The legislation was introduced in response to a 2008 boating accident in Ocean County where the operator of the boat left the scene of the accident that caused the death of one person and injured two others.
In that incident, a 27-foot Imperial speed boat operated by Anthony DiGilio ran over the top of a 16 1/2-foot Boston Whaler on the Metedeconk River, killing Robert Post. DiGilio fled the scene in his boat and did not call authorities.
“Jail time is a necessary punishment for offenders who knowingly leave the scene of the accident. We want our residents to put safety first when heading out onto the water and understand that they are responsible for their craft and searching for other injured parties,” added Holzapfel.
The legislation passed the Senate in a 39-0 vote.