mcpo_shieldFREEHOLD, NJ -  A Monmouth County grand jury handed up an indictment Monday charging a Middletown man with a fatal 2011 vessel collision on the Navesink River in Middletown, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

George Harrington, 41, of Browns Dock Road, is charged with one count of second-degree Vehicular Homicide in connection with the July 23, 2011 death of Christopher Plante, 50, of Keansburg.

The indictment is the result of an investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Middletown Township Police Department and the New Jersey State Police Marine Services and Criminal Investigation bureaus.

The investigation began on July 23, 2011, after Middletown police received a 911 call at around 11:30 p.m., reporting two boats collided on the Navesink River and an individual from one of the boats was missing.  Local police, emergency medical personnel and water rescue teams, along with the United States Coast Guard and New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau were dispatched to the scene.  A vessel from the Fair Haven Marine Rescue Unit also responded to the scene and located the two vessels, but was unable to locate the operator of one of the vessels.

Police conducted a large-scale search over the next several hours utilizing numerous vessels, helicopters and extensive manpower, but were unable to locate the missing vessel operator.  The following morning, around 9 a.m., a local paddle boarder located the body of the missing boater in the Navesink River later identified as Christopher Plante.

The joint investigation continued into the cause of the vessel collision with police determining Harrington was operating his vessel with four other occupants, while under the influence of alcohol, at a speed which was unsafe for the prevailing conditions when his vessel encountered and struck Plante’s vessel.  Plante was traveling at a slow speed in his vessel, with his girlfriend as a passenger, when his vessel was struck and he was ejected into the river.

Harrington was issued summonses for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol, refusal to submit to chemical breath testing, failure to maintain a proper lookout, reckless operation of a vessel and for operating a vessel without a boating safety certificate.

If convicted of Vehicular Homicide, Harrington faces a maximum sentence of ten years in New Jersey State Prison, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (“NERA”).  “NERA” requires that a defendant serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole.

After the return of the Indictment, the Honorable Francis J. Vernoia, P.J.Cr., set Harrington’s bail at $150,000, with ten percent.  Harrington was processed on this charge and was released after posting bail.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors John Loughrey and Christopher J. Decker.  Harrington is represented by Joseph A. Hayden, Jr. and Christopher D. Adams of Roseland, New Jersey.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial in which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.