By Nicole M. Wells
A Lake Hopatcong man was arrested and charged in connection with a recent boating fatality, prosecutors said.
Nicholas Zarantonello, 24, was charged with one count of death by vessel, stemming from an Aug. 3 boating incident, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office said. A second degree crime, the death by vessel count is in addition to the boating under the influence count that Zarantonello was initially charged with.
Prosecutors allege that Zarantonello was the operator of a pontoon boat on Lake Hopatcong with two passengers, when Jason Gill, 24, of Mount Arlington, went overboard and did not resurface. Troopers from the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau responded at approximately 7:42 p.m. Aug. 3 to a report of a man who fell off a pontoon boat and submerged near Main Lake Market.Assisting in the search were State Police Aviation and T.E.A.M.S. Units, as well as the Jefferson Fire Department.
Gill’s body was recovered in the early hours of Aug. 5, according to police. Upon recovery, the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office took possession of Gill for an autopsy, police said. Zarantonello was allegedly operating the vessel recklessly and while under the influence at the time of the incident, prosecutors said. Anthony J. Iacullo, Zarantonello's attorney, said the situation was tragic.
"Nick lost a close friend as a result of a very unfortunate accident,"Iacullo said. "Everyone wishes Jason's entire family peace and solace during this most difficult time."
It was not immediately clear what substance Zarantonello was under the influence of in the time leading up to the incident.
The New Jersey State Police, New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit conducted the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at (973) 285-6200.