Cops: Boat captain who plowed into East Marion beach was drunk

06/30/2012 9:00 AM |

JEREMY GARRETSON PHOTO | This 40-foot boat ran ashore Friday afternoon in Orient. No injuries were reported.

Update: The operator of a 40-foot cabin cruiser that plowed into an East Marion beach Friday has been charged with boating while intoxicated, Southold Town police said.

Michael Gress, 48, of North Salem in Westchester County was operating the boat in a southerly direction on autopilot when he ran aground just before 2:30 p.m., police said. No injuries were reported.

ORIGINAL STORY: A man fell asleep while driving a 40-foot boat on autopilot and ran ashore at Truman’s Beach in East Marion Friday afternoon, witnesses said.

Jeremy Garretson said he was at a friend’s house and noticed a 40-foot boat heading toward the sand shortly before 3 p.m. There were only a few people on the beach at the time, he said.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | The 40-foot cabin cruiser gets towed from the scene.

“At first I thought he was going to turn around, but he never slowed down,” Mr. Garretson said.

After the boat hit the beach, Mr. Garretson said he saw a man stumble out of the boat and heard him say he fell asleep while driving on autopilot.

Chris Sharman, who is visiting family in Orient, said he also witnessed the large vessel crash into the town beach off the Orient causeway.

“He was just coming straight for the beach going full speed” said Mr. Sharman, a U.S. Navy commander. ” I don’t know if he was asleep or what.”

Mr. Sharman added that he had just arrived to New York from China.

“China has some strange sights,” he said, “But we don’t have too many boats coming at full speed up onto the shore.”

Susan dunning, who on the scene as the boat was towed away at 6 p.m., said the vessel’s driver was able to walk away from the scene, but that he was led by police.

It was not clear if the man was charged with a crime. Southold police said they would issue details at a later time.

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Additional reporting by Jennifer Gustavson.