Christopher Palma was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed when he collided with 18-year-old Caitlin McDonald’s jet ski near Baldwin
MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly 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, 48, 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); and Reckless Operation of a Vessel (an unclassified misdemeanor).
The defendant pleaded not guilty, and bail was set at $20,000 bond or cash, or $10,000 partially secured bond. The defendant is due back in court on January 31, 2023. If convicted of the top count, he faces a potential maximum of five years to 15 years in prison.
“This defendant allegedly failed to heed navigation rules, recklessly sped toward a line of jet skiers and careened into the jet ski of 18-year-old Caitlin McDonald, killing her,” said DA Donnelly. “Our thoughts remain with the McDonald family as we prosecute this case. We hope that today’s indictment is a reminder to all those using Nassau’s waterways for recreation that we will pursue criminal charges when vessels are operated recklessly and dangerously.”
DA Donnelly 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, allegedly 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 NCPD’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 2020, before the Coronavirus public health emergency.
Judge Bogle dismissed the indictment in 2021, and following an affirmation by the Appellate Division, Second Department, the matter was re-presented to a Nassau County grand jury, which returned the indictment that the defendant was arraigned on today.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Tara DePalo of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. The defendant is represented by Stephen LaMagna, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.