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Experienced American Sailor Run Over By Powerboat While Snorkeling Off Guana Island In The BVI

ROAD TOWN, Tortola — Two American tourists were seriously injured while snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands after a marine accident on Friday, authorities said. One man was killed.

John Lagrassa, 58, of Massapequa, New York died after being run over by a powerboat near Guana Island in the BVI, official and social media reports said.

John Lagrassa on Facebook.

His life partner Elizabeth Barry was also seriously injured, but survived the accident and was taken to Dr. Orlando Smith Hospital in Road Town for treatment, according to John’s sister Peggy Lagrassa Caitabiano.

“We are grateful to her for her love for him,.” Lagrassa Caitabiano said.

Meanwhile, John Lagrassa studied at the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime and was an experienced captain and sailor.

“John and I started our seagoing careers together in 1979 when we entered SUNY Maritime College,” friend Bill Bartsch said. “He was the captain of the sailing team and became a very accomplished racer and current Vice Commodore of the Manhattan Yacht Club. He captained large yachts and was an avid waterman. His business career was also stellar.”

Lagrassa worked for Zurich Financial Services.

“The pic below with (Barry) was taken the night before the accident, on the yacht, as they were sharing how blessed they were for the New Year together,” Bartsch said.

LOVING COUPLE THE NIGHT BEFORE JOHN DIED IN THE BVI: John Lagrassa and Elizabeth Barry on their yacht.

Peggy Lagrassa Caitabiano of upstate New York said that her family is now faced with the grim task of bringing John’s remains home.

“This tragic loss has left us all numb,” Lagrassa Caitabiano said. “For those of you who know the LaGrassa family you know that we are extraordinarily close.”

John Lagrassa in the British Virgin islands.

“John was a piece of each and every one of us. John was our brother, our uncle, our great uncle and to many of you all, a true friend. His love and respect for the water (where he spent most of his life) was immeasurable He was very lucky to have lived his life doing everything he wanted to do and yet we know there was so much more to do.”

She added that the family is “heartbroken” over the loss of beloved family member John.

“We thank everyone who has reached out to us at this difficult time,” she said. “We have read each and every comment, thought and memory that you all have shared. They will be with us forever and we thank you for them.”

Lagrassa Caitabiano said the family would share John’s funeral arrangements with the public once they are known.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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