Barge workers claim injuries from Port Arthur ship channel collision, sue tanker owner for $15 M

Marilyn Tennissen Feb. 3, 2010, 9:50am

The Eagle Otome and a barge collided Jan. 23 near the Port of Port Arthur. Photo provided by U.S. Coast Guard.

Three men working on the barge that was struck by the crude oil tanker M/V Eagle Otome in the Port Arthur ship channel last month claim they were injured in the collision and are suing the tanker's owners for $15 million.

Eric Delahoussaye, Gerald Dwyer and Timothy Jacquet of Port Arthur claim they were injured on Jan. 23 when the Eagle Otome veered out of control and collided with the barge they were on as it was being pushed by a tugboat near the Port of Port Arthur.

"The collision was without warning, violent and resulted in a release of an extremely dangerous chemical later identified as hydrogen sulfate," the suit filed Jan. 28 in Jefferson County District Court states.

Because of the collision, Delahoussaye and Dwyer allege they suffered severe and permanent injuries to their necks and backs and suffered from exposure and inhalation of hydrogen sulfate, while Jacquet suffered severe and permanent injuries to his back and pelvis and also was exposed to and inhaled the hydrogen sulfate, according to the complaint.

At the time of the collision, the Eagle Otome was carrying 570,000 barrels of high sulfur Venezuelan crude oil to the Exxon Mobil refinery. When it struck the barge, a large gash opened in the side of the tanker and around 450,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the waterway. Fumes coming from both vessels caused neighborhoods near the Port of Port Arthur to be evacuated.

In addition to their injuries, the men incurred medical costs, lost wages, suffered physical incapacity and disability and lost their enjoyment of life, the complaint says.

They blame defendant American Eagle Tankers, owner of the Eagle Otome, for causing the collision, alleging negligence and gross negligence against the company.

"Because of the foregoing, each plaintiff has been damaged in an amount in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of the Court, for which sum they now bring suit," the suit states. "Specifically, plaintiffs seek damages not to exceed $15,000,000."

In addition, they are seeking costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Charles W. Livingston II of C.W. Livingston and Associates in Houston will be representing them.

Also on Jan. 28, another suit was filed by Robert Prosperie, who claims he was injured when the Eagle Otome hit the vessel on which he was working, the Gearbulk vessel Gull Arrow.

Prosperie names American Eagle, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Sabine Pilot Service as defendants. He claims he suffered physical pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment, lost wages, lost his earning capacity and incurred medical costs, the suit states.

Prosperie blames the defendants for causing his injuries, saying they failed to properly navigate, operate and maintain the Eagle Otome, failed to provide an adequate crew and failed to train the crew.

Represented by Matthew C. Matheny of Provost Umphrey, Prosperie seeks an unspecified judgment, interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Both cases have been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

After the collision, the ship channel remained closed for four days as emergency crews worked to clean the spill. On an average day, around 150 barges and 15 tankers pass through the waterway.

Delahoussaye Case No: A185-823.

Prosperie Case No: A185-821.

Staff writer Kelly Holleran contributed to this article.

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