Widow's suit questions husband's death in Galveston regatta

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 16, 2008, 9:40am

Crew of the Cynthia Woods just before the start of the Regatta de Amigos on June 6.

GALVESTON – Linda and Roger Stone fell in love on a sailboat 20 years ago and it was on a sailboat that Roger Stone met his demise last month at the age of 53, recent court documents say.

Roger Stone was a safety officer for the six-member Texas A&M University-Galveston sailing team, competing in the biennial Regatta de Amigos.

Their vessel, the 38-foot Cynthia Woods -- and 25 other sailboats -- embarked on the 700-mile trek from Galveston to Veracruz, Mexico, on June 6.

According to court documents, the sailboat's 5,000-pound lead keel broke apart from the hull and fell into the Gulf of Mexico, causing the boat to capsize later that night and sink the following day.

Roger Stone was killed, while his five other teammates – including two student sailors he assisted off the boat – spent some 26 hours adrift prior to their rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The incident has spawned a lawsuit in which Linda Stone hopes to receive an exact answer from Cape Fear Yacht Works, Galveston Yacht Services, Payco Inc. and North Carolina-based boat designer Bruce Marek as to the cause of the keel's collapse.

The widow, represented by attorney Randy Sorrels of Houston, filed the suit in Galveston County District Court on July 10.

The suit does not name the school in any capacity.

The ill-fated vessel was a gift to Texas A&M from Galveston billionaire and philanthropist George P. Mitchell, who graduated from the university with a degree in petroleum engineering. His wife is its namesake.

Mitchell's son is the owner of Cape Fear Yacht Works, which manufactured the Cynthia Woods in 2005. Marek designed the ship while Payco Inc. and Galveston Yacht Services were tasked with its upkeep from 2006 to 2007.

In Linda Stone's lawsuit, Cape Fear Yacht Works and Marek face an array of accusations including but not limited to failure in proper design and manufacture. Payco Inc. and Galveston Yacht Services are blamed for negligence in the suit.

Linda Stone also claims Cape Fear Yacht Works was uncooperative in an investigation into the accident.

Judge Wayne Mallia of the 405th District Court is presiding over the case.

Case No. 08CV0728

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