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Freeporters demand justice for boat crash victims

Assemblyman Phil Ramos asks state to probe local investigation


***Update: During a news conference on Aug. 14, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder  addressed the cased, stating that police were not going out of their way to keep the other boat driver's idenitity hidden. He stated that the scene of the accident was not a 5-mph zone, and that police never released the immigration status of the deceased. He offered his condolences to the families of the victims.***

As Long Island began reopening in July, friends Victor Moz and Jorge Soto Monge, both of Freeport, returned to work as delivery drivers for Best Buy and P.C. Richards, respectively. 

After a long day of work, the duo would meet up with friends and relax aboard Moz’s boat on Freeport Creek. 

But their evenings of relaxation were forever disrupted on Aug. 1, when another boat collided with theirs, killing Jorge, leaving Moz and his friend, Maura Martinez, hospitalized, and injuring four others.  

Jose and Rosa Soto Monge, Jorge’s parent’s, and Moz described the ordeal as a nightmare, and said it was only prolonged by what they described as “incompetence” by the Nassau County Police Department in their handling of the case. 

Friends and family of the victims were joined by community leaders at Cow Meadow Park, near the site of the crash, on Aug. 9, to demand justice for Jorge and that the state look into NCPD’s investigation of the case.

“To this day, the police have not visited Jorge's family,” State Assemblyman Phil Ramos, of Bay Shore, said. “I had to talk to the police myself to get them to even call the family. And the fact that they said that they could not release details to the family because the investigation was ongoing, but told me that they would most likely rule it an accident and not seek criminal charges against the other driver...shows that there is a double-standard in place for Hispanic victims and victims of color.”           

Jose and Rosa said they were not only upset over the lack of communication with the police regarding their son’s death, but also that there might not be criminal charges pressed against the other driver, whose boat ripped Moz’s in half.

They said they spent days waiting for the police to contact them before taking the initiative themselves to find out what exactly happened to their son. 

They were also upset over police identifying Jorge as an undocumented immigrant but not divulging the identity of the other driver. 

“My son came here about a year-and-a-half ago from El Salvador to seek asylum and escape all the violence that was happening there,” Jose said. “He was a good person who was trying to make a better life for himself here, and now we’ve lost him. 

“He and I have the same rights as anyone else, yet we can’t get any answers,” Rosa added. “That man took everything from us by being irresponsible, and we demand justice.” 

Attorney Kenneth Halperin, of Wingate, Russotti & Shapiro LLP, said he was representing the Soto Monge family and Vanessa Cornejo, another one of the victims, as they plan to bring a civil suit against the other driver for recklessness and negligence.  

Halperin said that police did not interview the victims aboard Moz’s boat properly. Moz, himself, said he only spoke to police once in the wake of the crash, but he did not believe they got his proper testimony because he does not speak English well nor was a translator ever provided.   

Ramos, who has about 20 years of policing experience in Suffolk, criticized the investigation and what he said was a lack of consideration for the victims and their family.

As of the time of press, the investigation is still ongoing. 

Moz, who attended the Aug. 9 protest in his wheelchair as he recovered from injuries to his back and pelvis, teared up as he said he wished he could have done something to save Jorge that night. 

“We were knocked in the water and as they loaded me into the ambulance, I kept asking for Jorge,” Moz said. “I said ‘Where is he? Is he okay?’ They told me he was okay, that he was fine, and then I found out he was dead. None of this should have happened.”        

A GoFundMe page was started by the local community to help the Soto Monge family and to deliver Jorge’s body to his native El Salvador. To donate to the family, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/en-memoria-de-jorge-soto-monge.