Wave that caused drowning death leads to suit against ship co., pilots

Marilyn Tennissen Mar. 20, 2007, 11:00am

The family of a man who drowned when his fishing boat overturned in the Intracoastal Waterway has filed a wrongful death suit against a tanker company they claim negligently created a wave that caused the boat to capsize.

On March 14, the estate of Sydney Wright Jr. filed a suit against the Sabine Pilots Association and American Eagle Tankers Inc. in a Jefferson County district court.

According to the plaintiffs, Wright was fishing near Pleasure Island on Aug. 11, 2006, in a 23-foot Boston Whaler and was anchored well out of the shipping channel in around 5 to 8 feet of water.

In the original petition it states that around 8:45 a.m., the American Eagle Carina, owned by American Eagle Tankers Inc. of Houston and being driven by two Sabine Pilots, was traveling down the ship channel out to sea. It states that witnesses said the Carina was moving at “abnormally fast rate of speed,” was empty and was riding high on the water.

The pilots “were not paying attention and were steering the boat directly toward Mr. Wright and another boat containing a fisherman,” the petition said.

Then, according to the suit, the pilots of the Carina noticed the error and took a “hard and evasive turn away from the bank” where the fishermen were. The speed of the ship, the turn rate of the ship and the position of the rudder caused an abnormal wake or wave, about 5 or 6 feet high, moving toward the fishermen. Seeing the “abnormal wave that coming toward him from the ship,” Wright tried to release the anchor on his fishing boat, but his boat overturned on top of him and he drowned.

The plaintiffs, Stepanie Wright, Alex Wright and Ashley Wills, are claiming negligence and general maritime negligence on behalf of Wright’s estate and are seeking damages that include loss of future earnings, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish up to the time of death.

As survivors, the plaintiffs are also seeking damages from termination of the parent-child relationship, spousal relationship and severe mental anguish suffered in the past, present and future.

In addition, the plaintiffs seek punitive or exemplary damages from Sabine Pilots and American Eagle Tankers due to the extreme amount of risk and indifference to the safety and welfare of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by John S. Morgan of Lindsay & Morgan PLLC in Beaumont.

Judge Gary Sanderson of the Jefferson County 60th District Court has been assigned the case.

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