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Wrongful death suit filed for sinking of tall ship during Sandy

Investigators have released an official report about a boat accident that left two crew members dead off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy. Family members of one victim, a 42-year-old woman, have filed a wrongful death suit in the case, which could be bolstered by the findings issued in the National Transportation Safety Board evaluation. Officials say that the fatal 2012 accident occurred because of the captain's reckless decision to steer the tall ship into the path of the violent storm.

The wooden tall ship was by no means a young vessel, and investigators said the condition of the boat made a dire situation even worse. Crew members on the ship, called the Bounty, were largely inexperienced in handling the difficult weather conditions. In fact, 10 of those crew members had been employed on the ship for six months or less. They were struggling with injuries, fatigue and seasickness as the Bounty weathered gale-force winds near Cape Hatteras.

All of the crew members were thrown overboard when the Bounty began to sink on Oct. 29, 2012. The female victim died in the incident, and the captain is presumed dead after being washed away at sea. The surviving victims were rescued by members of the Coast Guard in helicopters who heroically braved the brunt of the hurricane to fetch them from the waves.

Information contained in the report also implicates shoddy and inadequate repairs in the boat's structural failure. The boat should have received industrial-grade repairs, but household caulk and paint were used instead of replacing critical components. Those repairs contributed to the boat's inability to withstand the storm.

The female victim's family is seeking financial damages of $90 million in connection with the wrongful death claim against the ship's owner. Although this is an unusual example of a boat-related death, scores of North Carolina residents have died because of intoxicated or irresponsible boaters. Relatives of those victims may be entitled to financial compensation from the responsible parties, and they may be able to recover money under North Carolina's wrongful death statute.

Source: Kennebec Journal, "‘Reckless decision’ to sail into Hurricane Sandy sank the Bounty" Eric Russell, Feb. 10, 2014

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