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Oceanside man arraigned on multiple charges for 2019 high-speed boat crash that killed Rockville Centre teen

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An Oceanside man was arraigned Thursday on manslaughter and other charges after allegedly recklessly operating a speed boat and killing an 18-year-old jet skier.

According to District Attorney Madeline Singas's office, Christopher Palma, 45, was arraigned before Judge Robert Bogle, on charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless operation of a vessel after the death of Caitlin McDonald, 18, of Rockville Centre.

"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," Singas said in a statement. "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." 

On July 14, 2019, at about 10:45 a.m., McDonald 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 McDonald, who was approaching from the starboard side of his vessel.

Palma, 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 Palma'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.

McDonald's father, other nearby boaters and first responders from the Nassau County Police Department's Marine Bureau, the NCPD's Emergency Ambulance Bureau, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Town of Hempstead Bay rendered aid to McDonald, but she was later pronounced dead at Long Beach Hospital.

Following an investigation by the NCPD and the district attorney's office, the matter was presented to a grand jury, which indicted the defendant in March, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior District Attorneys Tara DePalo and Christopher Casa and of Singas' Vehicular Crimes Bureau are prosecuting the case. Palma is represented by Steven LaMagna, Esq. 

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