ROXBURY, NJ – A man responsible for a 2019 boating accident that killed his friend, former Roxbury High School student Jason Gil, must spend almost a year behind bars and then face three years on probation, officials said today.
The man, Nicholas Zarantonello, 25, was sentenced Fri., Oct. 23, by state Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
In addition to spending 364 days in county jail and being on probation afterward, Zarantonello must complete 200 hours of community service, forfeit his right to operate a boat for a year and forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle for three months, said the prosecutor’s office.
Zarantonello pleaded guilty July 20 to third-degree strict liability vehicular homicide and to the boating regulation violation of operating a vessel while under the influence, said the prosecutor’s office. The incident took place Aug. 3, 2019.
Gil, of Mount Arlington, was a 2013 graduate of Roxbury High School who was working as an X-ray technician in Cedar Knolls. He was survived by his mother, Monica, and twin brother Jonathan.
State Police initially charged Zarantonello with boating under the influence and subsequently charged him with second-degree death by vessel, a charge that could have resulted in a five-year prison term and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
In an affidavit, State Police Trooper Helmut Bisl said Zarantonello admitted drinking hard liquor prior to the incident. He said Zarantonello told him he - accompanied by Gil and another passenger - took the boat onto the lake at about 5 p.m.
"Prior to taking the boat onto the water, they stopped at a liquor store and purchased a handle of hard liquor and some mixers," wrote Bisl. He said Zarantonello told him he brought another bottle of hard liquor onto the boat, too.
Zarantonello told the trooper the trio "remained in the area of Byram Cove, drinking alcohol, until they became hungry and decided to head back," Bisl wrote. The other passenger, described only as "A.D." in the affidavit, told police the pontoon boat entered a no-wake zone en route to the marina, "at which time the defendant slowed down the boat, causing it to jerk," wrote the trooper.
Gil "was standing on a platform on the bow of the boat," at that point, says the statement. "He fell into the water and did not resurface. A search of the vessel was conducted. A nearly empty handle of hard liquor was observed onboard."
Bisl said Zarantonello - while talking to police - showed signs of impairment "including, but not limited to swaying; slurred speech; bloodshot, red, and watery eyes; and the odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from his mouth."
Blood samples showed Zarantonello had a blood-alcohol content above the 0.08 percent legal limit "and the presence of" an unnamed illegal drug, according to Bisl.
Gil’s body was not found until two days after the accident. It was spotted, by a boater on the lake, near the area in Jefferson where the incident took place, authorities said.
Zarantonello has already served more than two months of his sentence, according to northjersey.com, which covered the sentencing. It said Zarantonello's lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, argued in court that Gil was at least partially responsible for his fate, having climbed over the boat's rails on the ride back to the marina.
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