Charges of misconduct and neglect of ship officer resulting in death, carrying a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, have been filed against the two men. The Coast Guard Sector New York and the Coast Guard Investigative Services (CGIS) suspect illegal passenger operations and are currently investigating the matter.

The investigation uncovered that the vessel lacked the necessary Certificate of Inspection (COI), and Gomez did not possess the mandatory Coast Guard-issued merchant mariner credential (MMC) for operating a passenger vessel. The case has been forwarded to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for possible criminal prosecution.

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Captain Zeita Merchant, Captain of the Port of New York, expressed condolences to the affected families and stressed the importance of vessel operators understanding their vessel's limits and navigating waters safely. Passengers are also urged to ensure that the required credentials for vessel operators are in place before embarking on a journey.

The Coast Guard is cautioning the public to be vigilant against illegal charters, emphasizing that any vessel carrying six or more passengers must have a valid COI. Passengers are advised to verify the captain's license and the boat’s inspection status before boarding.

In addition, the Coast Guard reminded passengers to check the boat’s maximum capacity plate to avoid overloading, as it can compromise the vessel’s stability and increase the risk of capsizing.

Illegal charter operations not only violate federal law but can also result in hefty civil penalties. Owners and operators may face fines up to $60,000 for illegal passenger-for-hire operations. Charters in violation of a Coast Guard Captain of the Port Order could be fined $111,000 per violation.

Other potential penalties include fines for failure to participate in a chemical testing program, failure to provide a COI for vessels carrying more than six passengers, and failure to produce a valid Certificate of Documentation for vessels over 5 gross tons.