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Boater charged in drowning deaths of 2 best friends

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 27 2014 04:31:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2014 05:22:17 AM CDT

The only survivor of a boating accident is now in trouble with the law.

READING, Pa. -

The only survivor of a boating accident is now on the other side of the law.

Brandon Allen was operating the boat and is now facing charges for unintentionally causing the deaths of his two best friends.

Allen, 21, of Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, has been haunted by the loss for more than a year, and now he is fighting to stay out of jail.

"He's handling it about as well as anyone can who watched his two friends die and is being charged with a crime," said Mitchell Sommers, Allen's attorney.    

Allen was charged with two counts of homicide by watercraft, reckless operation of a watercraft and other charges after that deadly day on the Susquehanna River.

Allen was operating a 10-foot aluminum boat, which was able to carry only 280 pounds, said officials.

On June 1, 2013, he went fishing with his two friends, Cody Moyer and Jonny Velez. The boat took on water and all three men went overboard, but only Allen was able to swim to safety and survive.   

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission filed the charges in May.

The investigation revealed the boat's weight was twice the maximum safe operating capacity and there were no life jackets on board, according to court documents.

"This was a horrible tragedy," said Mitchell. "Three friends went out and only one came back."

Allen spoke to 69 News in June 2013, when he still held onto hope only hours after the accident.   

Mitchell said the families of Moyer and Velez told him they do not want Allen to go to jail. Sarah Lombardo, Moyer's former girlfriend, gave birth to his son in October and she also came to Allen's defense.

"He already lost two friends and he's going to have the survivor guilt for the rest of his life, and the charges should just not be there," said Lombardo.

The charges filed are a misdemeanor of the first degree, but they still carry a lot of weight.

If convicted, Allen could face the maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, said officials.