Fatal Delaware River boat crash video released ahead of lawsuit

 

Attorneys for the parents of two Hungarian students killed when a barge slammed into a tour boat in Philadelphia nearly two years ago released a new video of the crash just days before a civil wrongful death lawsuit goes to federal court.

Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, died when a city barge pushed by a tug collided with their disabled duck boat on the Delaware River in July 2010, dumping more than three dozen people into the river.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs' attorneys says the video, released yesterday, shows the impact of the barge and tour boat from the New Jersey side of the river. It was part of the official record compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the crash. 

The video shows the 80-yard (73-meter)-long barge moving toward the drifting duck boat and then driving over the smaller vessel.

Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by the families against K-Sea Transportation, which operated the tugboat guiding the barge; Ride the Ducks, which operated the tour boat; the city of Philadelphia, which owned the barge; and others. Before the lawsuits can proceed, a judge will hear arguments on Monday on whether maritime law should limit the liabilities of the operators of both vessels.

Lawyers for the victims' families say passengers weren't told to don life preservers until moments before the crash. They also contend the vessel lacked an emergency air horn and radio and had overhead canopies that trapped the two victims underwater when the boat capsized.

In November, tug pilot Matthew Devlin was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to the maritime equivalent of an involuntary manslaughter charge. Prosecutors said he was distracted by cellphone calls amid a family emergency and moved to a part of the tug that blocked his view of the river.

The safety board said in its report on the crash that the duck boat overheated on the hot day because someone left a radiator cap off, and the captain mistook the steam for an engine fire and anchored the boat in the busy channel.

AP

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