Mitchell company settles wrongful death suit from capsizal of 'Cynthia Woods'

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Mar 2, 2010

Crew of the "Cynthia Woods" just before the start of the Regatta de Amigos on June 6, 2008.

GALVESTON - A yacht building company owned by Galveston's Mitchell family has agreed to pay damages to the heirs of a man killed when a sailing ship named for the Mitchell matriarch capsized during a regatta.

Cape Fear Yacht Works will pay the widow and children of Roger Stone, a member of the Texas A&M University-Galveston Sea Aggie sailing team, $375,000 for the next three years, recent court papers say.

Stone, 53, and the Sea Aggie team were competing in the Regatta de Amigos on their vessel, the 38-foot "Cynthia Woods," with 25 other sailboats. The boats embarked on the 700-mile trek from Galveston to Vera Cruz, Mexico, on June 6, 2008.

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, Cynthia Woods Mitchell, who died Dec. 27, 2009, is the vessel's namesake.

The Mitchells' son is the owner of Cape Fear Yacht Works, which manufactured the vessel in 2005.

According to the case filed in July 2008 in Galveston County District Court, 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.

Stone was killed, but his five other teammates - including two student sailors he assisted off the boat - spent some 26 hours adrift before they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

His spouse, Linda Stone, hired Houston attorney Randy Sorrels and sued Cape Fear Yacht Works, Galveston Yacht Services, Payco Inc. and North Carolina-based boat designer Bruce Marek in an effort to find the cause of the keel's collapse.

In Linda Stone's suit, Cape Fear Yacht Works and Marek faced an array of accusations including but not limited to failure in proper design and manufacture. Payco Inc. and Galveston Yacht Services were blamed for negligence in the suit, which was assigned to Galveston County 405th District Court Judge Wayne Mallia.

Linda Stone also claimed Cape Fear Yacht Works was uncooperative in an accident investigation.

While Cape Fear Yacht Works and Marek agreed to settle, Linda Stone's suit against Payco Inc. remains active, The Galveston County Daily News reports in Feb. 27 article.

The newspaper also reports that the damages will provide for the college education of Roger Stone's two children.

Case No. 08CV0728

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