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Update: Additional charges expected after fatal boating crash

Southold Town police are investigating a Sunday evening boating accident that occurred in the area of James Creek in Mattituck that claimed the life of a 27-year old Riverhead woman.

A 39-foot Cobalt struck a bulkhead approximately 200 feet to the west of the entrance to James Creek, which is just east of Veteran’s Beach, police said. The four people on board the vessel sustained serious injuries to varying degrees as a result of the impact. Two victims were transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center by fire department ambulance and two were airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Kelley Blanchard, 27, of Riverhead suffered life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead at Peconic Bay Medical Center, police said.

The Mattituck fire department and Cutchogue FD responded, as did officers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The damaged bulkhead pictured Monday afternoon. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

Police named the other individuals involved in the incident as: Frank Distefano, 48, of East Northport; Nick Soullas, 41, of Jamesport; Megan Blanchard, 29, of New Suffolk. Megan, who is listed in fair condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, and Kelley Blanchard are sisters. Mr. Distefano is also listed in fair condition Monday, according to a Stony Brook hospital spokesperson.

Southold police said Monday morning that Mr. Distefano, a partner in the Michelangelo’s pizza franchises where the late Ms. Blanchard worked as a manager, was charged with boating while intoxicated, a misdemeanor. He was issued an appearance ticket and is expected to be arraigned later this month, police said. The release also said the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is assisting with the investigation. Mr. Distefano is the owner of the boat, police said.

Additional charges are expected and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

The incident occurred at about 9:17 p.m., police said. The boat was approximately 150 feet off shore when the first officers arrived on scene. All of the people were onboard after the initial crash and did not need to be rescued from the water, police said.

Police said the damage to the boat and bulkhead indicate “the collision occurred at significant speed.”

Mr. Soullas remains hospitalized as of Monday afternoon, police said. An update on his condition was not available from either Stony Brook or PBMC.

At 11 a.m. Monday, police still had the private road that leads to the homes where the boat struck the bulkhead blocked off. An officer said it was still an active crime scene.

New York State police also assisted in the investigation and the U.S. Coast Guard also monitored, police said.

Police said additional details will be released as they become available.

Top photo caption: Investigators at the scene Monday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The damaged boat. (Credit: Stringer News)
Photo caption: Investigators at the scene Sunday evening. (Credit: Stringer News)