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Posted on: May 28, 2020

Oceanside Man Indicted for July 2019 High-Speed Boat Collision that Killed 18-Year Old Near Baldwin

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MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that an Oceanside man was arraigned today on manslaughter and other related charges for allegedly recklessly operating a speed boat and killing an 18-year old jet skier.

Christopher Palma, 45, was arraigned before Judge Robert Bogle, on charges of:

  • Manslaughter in the Second Degree (a C felony)
  • Assault in the Second Degree (a D violent felony)
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide (an E felony)
  • Reckless Operation of a Vessel (an unclassified misdemeanor)

Bail was set at $20,000 cash or bond or $10,000 partially secured bond and the defendant is due back in court on June 29, 2020. If convicted of the top count, he faces a potential maximum of five years to 15 years in prison.

“The grand jury reviewed the evidence in the tragic death of 18-year old Caitlin McDonald and indicted Christopher Palma for operating his speedboat recklessly,” DA Singas said. “Nothing will bring back this promising young woman’s life or ease her family’s sorrow, but I hope this indictment reminds boaters what is at stake when they head out on the water as the summer boating season begins.”

DA Singas said that on July 14, 2019, at approximately 10:45 a.m., 18-year old Caitlin McDonald, of Rockville Centre, and others, including her father were on a jet ski tour in the vicinity of Middle Bay Channel, near Parsonage Cove and Baldwin Harbor.

The jet skis were traveling in a single file line, perpendicular to the path of Palma’s vessel, a Fountain Lightning speed boat.

Palma, an experienced boater, was allegedly operating his vessel at a high rate of speed at that time, despite the presence of boating traffic and multiple jet ski tour customers.

Several of the jet skis crossed in front of his path and, under navigation rules, Palma was required to reduce speed and yield the right of way to the victim, who was approaching from the starboard side of his vessel.

The defendant, however, maintained course, did not stop, and his vessel collided with the jet ski operated by McDonald.

The high-speed collision resulted in damage to the defendant’s vessel on the starboard side from the bow to the stern, as well as catastrophic damage to the victim’s jet ski as she was thrown into the water with grave injuries.

The victim’s father, other nearby boaters, and first responders from Nassau County Police Department’s Marine Bureau, the Nassau County Police Department’s Emergency Ambulance Bureau, the United States Coast Guard and the Town of Hempstead Bay rendered aid to the victim, but she was later pronounced deceased at Long Beach Hospital.

Following an investigation by the Nassau County Police Department and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the matter was presented to a Grand Jury, which indicted the defendant in March, before the Coronavirus public health emergency.

Senior District Attorneys Tara DePalo and Christopher Casa and of DA Singas’ Vehicular Crimes Bureau are prosecuting this case. The defendant is represented by Steven LaMagna, Esq.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

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