Boater drank, used drugs before fatal bay collision

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But his lawyer said the his boat was...

By Kathianne Boniello

Blood tests on an Elmont man who was one of two people killed in a July 11 boating collision on Little Neck Bay showed he had been drinking and using cocaine the night of the accident, law enforcement sources said.

But his lawyer said the his boat was sitting still at the time of the crash.

The sources said blood tests on John Kondogianis, 36, a Flushing native who lived in Elmont L.I., revealed he had a blood alcohol content of .19, nearly double the legal limit of .10 as well as traces of cocaine in his system. Kondogianis was piloting a 1990 Bayliner on Little Neck Bay last month when he was thrown overboard after a crash with a 1996 Sea Ray operated by Robert Arnold, 18, of Douglas Manor.

Lawyer Jack Glasser said in an interview Tuesday he expects to move forward with plans to file a wrongful death suit against Arnold, who had been accused of causing the fatal accident before charges were dropped. This week a lawyer for one of the people severely injured in the accident said he plans to file personal injury lawsuits against Arnold and Kondogianis.

Kondogianis’ wife, Marisa Rodgers, 29, was in the boat with him and remains in critical condition.

Arnold had been on Little Neck Bay inner tubing with five friends, including George Lawrence, 17, of Little Neck, who along with Kondogianis was killed in the accident. Kondogianis’ and Lawrence’s bodies were recovered from Little Neck Bay July 14.

Glasser said Kondogianis was an experienced boater whose craft was sitting still in the water when it was hit. The lawyer said Kondogianis’ apparent alcohol or drug use had little relevance, and he blamed what he called Arnold’s “reckless” behavior for the collision.

“What does that have to do with the way the accident happened?” Glasser said of Kondogianis’ alcohol level. “He was in a state of inactivity in his boat. He was a target.”

Rodgers, who was seriously injured in the accident, has been in critical condition at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset since the incident. Another victim, Kevin Burke, 17, of Little Neck, suffered a fractured skull in the accident but was released from New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens July 15.

The Queens district attorney’s office dropped charges of drunken boating against Arnold July 19 after blood tests on the teen revealed an alcohol content of .01 — far below the legal limit — and no drugs in his system.

Arnold could face additional charges of criminally negligent homicide if an investigation of the accident reveals he was operating his boat in a careless manner, a spokeswoman for Queens DA Richard Brown said Monday. An investigation into the accident was continuing this week, the spokeswoman said.

Arnold’s lawyer, Steven Barnwell, could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.

Friends of Arnold have defended the teen as a responsible and safety-conscious boater who would not put his friends at risk.

More than a week after Arnold attended the funeral of his friend, George Lawrence, a lawyer for Burke said he was in the process of preparing personal injury litigation against both Arnold and Kondogianis’ estate.

Lawyer Brian Goldman said Burke’s injuries have improved since the accident.

“He’s feeling well,” Goldman said of Burke, a graduate of St. Francis Prep who planned to attend Loyola University in the fall. “We’ve not gotten the police report (on the accident) and we don’t want to rush to judgment, but it’s still an accident. Someone didn’t do the right thing.”

Goldman said he did not know if Burke and Arnold had communicated since the accident.

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

Updated 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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