Two killed in boat crash on Little Neck Bay

Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

A Long Island man who was killed in a collision last week with another power boat driven by a Douglas Manor teen on Little Neck Bay had a small amount of crack cocaine in his 1990 Bayliner and two prior arrests for drug possession, law enforcement sources said.

It was not known whether he used the drug before the fatal crash.

John Kondogianis, 35, of 213 Evans Ave. in Elmont, was one of two people killed at 9:50 p.m. last Thursday night after his boat collided with a boat operated by 18-year-old Robert Arnold half a mile offshore the Bayside Marina.

In addition to Kondogianis, George Lawrence, 17, a Benjamin Cardozo High School student from Little Neck, was also killed in the accident and two others, including Kondogianis’ wife, were seriously injured.

Police have charged Arnold with three counts of operating a boat while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But law enforcement sources said Monday blood tests revealed Arnold had an alcohol content of just .01, well below the .06 legal threshold for impairment. He had five other teens on board his boat.

Arnold pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court Friday and was free on $2,500 bail.

Law enforcement sources said the charges that Arnold was operating his boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs could be dropped if pending drug tests revealed no evidence of drugs in the teen’s system.

It was unclear if tests for drugs or alcohol had been performed on Kondogianis’ body and whether those tests revealed illicit substances in the Elmont man’s system at the time of the crash.

The sources said Kondogianis had prior Queens drug arrests in 1999 and 2000, and that the small amount of crack cocaine found in his boat was enough for “personal use.”

Patrick Clark, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney’s office, said an investigation into the accident was ongoing and that no decision had been reached on additional charges for Arnold. The teens involved in the crash said Kondogianis was running his boat without lights, which was expected to be part of the probe.

Arnold, a graduate of St. Mary’s High School who was scheduled to attend SUNY New Paltz in the fall, could still face charges of criminally negligent homicide.

George Lawrence’s family has spent the week grieving for the active teen. Lawrence’s older sister, Jessica, said in an interview Tuesday that her family remains close to the Arnold family and has been “infuriated” by reports accusing Robert Arnold of boating while drunk.

“There are no words to describe how frustrated we all are,” Jessica Lawrence said of the media reports on the accident and Arnold’s arrest. “Rob is responsible. He wouldn’t put his friends in danger — ever.”

Authorities said the crash between Arnold’s 1996 Sea Ray and Kondogianis’ 1990 Bayliner occurred while Arnold and five other friends were out inner-tubing. One of Arnold’s passengers, Kevin Burke, suffered severe head injuries in the incident but had improved enough by Monday to be released from New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens.

Kondogianis, a regular at the Bayside marina, was boating with his wife, Marisa Rodgers, 29. Rodgers has been in critical condition at North Shore University Hospital since she was recovered from the water.

Relatives of Kondogianis reached Tuesday on Long Island and in Illinois declined to comment on the accident. When told of the reports of Kondogianis’ alleged drug possession, an unidentified woman who answered the phone of Kondogianis’ relatives in Illinois said “we’ve heard nothing to that extent.”

“This is just such a painful time for us, we don’t want to comment,” the woman said.

Those from the Bayside marina familiar with Kondogianis said he had been a regular there for at least four years.

Reports that Kondogianis had drugs in his boat were surprising, one man said.

“It shocked us,” one of the marina’s owners said Tuesday. “I never saw the guy high or anything. I just find it hard to believe he was a user.”

The boat crash has shaken the normally tranquil northeast Queens communities of Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck, where boating on Little Neck Bay is a popular summer activity.

New York Police Department Harbor Units, Fire Department divers and the U.S. Coast Guard searched the dark waters of Little Neck Bay for more than two days before Kondogianis and Lawrence’s bodies surfaced Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the city medical examiner’s office said autopsies performed Monday showed Kondogianis died of blunt impact injuries to his head and neck after he was thrown into the water, while Lawrence drowned. Both deaths were listed as accidents, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

Friends of Arnold have repeatedly come to the teen’s defense since last week, saying the teen is a responsible and safe boater who rarely drank.

Joyce Ramirez, a Douglaston resident who volunteers with the Douglaston Yacht Squadron’s Junior Sailing Program, said Arnold “is a pillar of the community. I can’t imagine that he would be irresponsi­ble.”

Ramirez said a bereavement counselor visited the Douglas Manor dock Monday to talk to teens who have gathered there daily since the accident.

Max Sanz, manager of the Douglaston Club where both Arnold and Burke worked, had nothing but praise for the pair, who were waiters at the club.

“Kevin Burke is the kind of kid you’d like to have as a son,” Sanz said. “Robert — I thought he was one of the most responsible kids working here.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reader feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.


Do you know a hero of Queens? Nominate a person who has made a difference for the Queens Impact Awards.
Community News Group

Don’t miss out!

Stay in touch with the stories people are talking about in your neighborhood:

Optional: Help us tailor our newsletters to you!