COPS: WHALER ‘RODE OVER’ VICTIM’S BOAT

buoy-20Saturday night’s fatal boat collision occurred near Buoy 20, seen here from Rich Stavola’s Navesink River Road home, where authorities based their rescue operations. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A combination of alcohol and speed led to the death of a 50-year-old Keansburg man in a late-night boating accident on the Navesink River Saturday, authorities said Monday.

George Harrington, 39, of Atlantic Highlands, was “operating at a fairly high rate of speed” at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when his 20-foot Boston Whaler, carrying five passengers, hit a Stingray operated by Christopher Plante in the area of Buoy 20 in the Middletown section of the river, State Police Sergeant Stephen Jones tells redbankgreen.

Harrington’s boat “rode over the stern of Plante’s vessel,” Jones said.

Plante was ejected from the boat, spurring a wide water and air search involving helicopters, boats and divers into the early hours Sunday. A command center was set up on the dock of a new mansion built by Richard Stavola on the Middletown side of the river to run the search.

Plante’s body was found by a paddleboarder around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, according to various accounts.

At the time of the collision, Plante was with an unidentified passenger who was not injured or ejected from the Stingray, Jones said.

It isn’t clear yet whether Plante’s boat was moving or anchored at the time of the accident, and police did not have available the direction Harrington’s boat was traveling when the two collided, Jones said.

But a person present at the command center tells redbankgreen that the Stingray’s passenger told police that Plante had stopped to look at the Stavola house when the Whaler slammed into their boat.

The five passengers in Harrington’s boat were flung into the water, but were able to re-board the boat, Jones said. They are identified as: Rebecca LaRosa (no age or residency information available); Kimberly Spreen, 46, of Middletown; Jennifer Levine, 47, of Little Silver; Paul Michalowski, 40, of Newtown, Pennsylvania; and Deborah Rich, 39, of Keansburg.

Neither boat sank, and the victims were brought ashore to Stavola’s dock by emergency responders.

Harrington was arrested for drunken driving after being given a sobriety test on Stavola’s dock, the witness said.

It is not clear whether Harrington will face additional charges stemming from the crash.

“That would be inappropriate for us to conjecture what that would be,” Jones said. “It’s going to be a long time before the investigation is done.”

State Police and its major crimes unit continue to investigate the accident, and are working with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, he said.

An autopsy performed at Centra State Healthcare System in Freehold determined that Plante died of multiple blunt force trauma and drowning, Jones said.

Initial reports confused the number of passengers and the vessels they were in. Police, who have given Plante’s spelling without an ‘e’ at the end, gave his address as Orchard Street in Keansburg. Property records show the home listed to Christopher Plante — with an ‘e.’

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