$17 Million Settlement Reached with Families of Duck Boat Collision Victims

By MarEx 2012-05-10 12:37:26

Nearly two years ago a tourist filled “duck boat” collided with a barge in the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian students.

The families of the two student’s will split $15 million while the remaining $2 million will be split among the nearly 20 other victims involved with the accident.

Dora Schwendter, 16 and Szabolcs Prem, 20 died on July 7, 2010 when a barge being towed by a tugboat slammed into the 33-foot “Ride the Ducks” tour boat they were on in the Delaware River. The collision pushed the duck boat and its 35 passengers under the water.

The student’s families filed wrongful death suits against the tugboat operator, K-Sea Transportation of East Brunswick, New Jersey and the tour boat operator, Ride the Ducks of Norcross, Georgia.

On Monday, the second day of the nonjury trial, Judge Thomas O’Neil halted proceedings and told the parties involved to come to a settlement. Settlement negotiations took place from noon on Tuesday to late Wednesday afternoon.

Details of the settlement were not released, including details of what portion of the settlement would be paid by each plaintiff.

A lawyer representing the families of the victims says this case should be a wakeup call to the transportation industry and that the real goal here is to make sure this never happens again.

In November 2011, Matthew Devlin, the tugboat captain, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for misconduct of a ship operator causing death. The Inquirer reports that Devlin became distracted after recieving a call from his wife concerning their 5 year old son who had just undergone surgery. 

The Maritime Executive’s report on his sentencing, reported November 2011:

Matthew R. Devlin, 35, of Catskill, New York, was sentenced Tuesday to one year and one day in prison for misconduct of a ship operator causing death, in relation to the "Duck boat" accident on the Delaware River here July 7, 2010.

In the accident, the barge, The Resource, which was towed by the towing vessel Caribbean Sea, piloted by defendant Devlin, ran over a boat operated by the tourism company Ride the Ducks International LLC. As a result, two passengers on the duck boat who were visiting from Hungary, Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, were killed.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis. Devlin is to report to prison on Jan. 5, 2012. Devlin also surrendered his Coast Guard-issued license as a mate.

The criminal case was investigated by Special Agent Eric J. O’Hearn of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, supported by Marine Investigators of the United States Coast Guard and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer.

"The resolution of this case was made possible through the cooperation of the DOJ and the U.S. Coast Guard," said Cmdr. Jonathan Maiorine, preventions department chief for Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. "This joint effort has helped ensure there was accountability and increased safety in the wake of this tragedy."

Related articles: 

Tugboat Pilot Who Killed Two in “Duck Boat” Crash Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter Charges

New York Man Sentenced in Tragic Philadelphia "Duck Boat" Accident