When the Delta Mariner, an 8,200-ton cargo ship, hit Eggners Ferry Bridge last year, the crew could only see navigational lights on one of the bridge’s four spans. They were headed toward the lights when they crashed.
Afterward the maritime company filed a legal claim, saying it didn’t deserve to be held liable because the state failed to keep the lights on.
But now the state is suing for $7.18 million, saying the ship’s personnel should have slowed down and used the boat’s technology to chart a safe course.
The U.S. Coast Guard had been warning everyone, and the captain of another boat even called the Delta Mariner to say the boat was probably too tall for the course it was headed on, according to court records.
In short, the mariners acted in a “negligent and unseamanlike fashion,” the state’s attorneys say.
Court records show Foss and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet had a phone conference scheduled for this morning.
Several other people are also seeking compensation from the disaster.
BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC, under the name AT&T Kentucky, said it had about 4,366 feet of cable destroyed. The temporary repair cost nearly $60,000, and permanent repair work continues, according to court records.
Bertha and Kelly Wilson, who own The Brass Lantern Restaurant in Hardin, estimate that they’ve lost more than $33,800 in sales because of the bridge’s sinking.
Three Murray residents also claimed damages for extra money the detour forced them to spend on gas. Bryan Warner, who taught science at Hopkinsville High School the semester after the bridge collapse, said driving an extra 76 miles a day cost him $4,389.
Typically in a lawsuit, after the defendant has formally denied all accusations of wrongdoing, the parties exchange discovery. It can consist of audio and video records, documents, interviews with witnesses and other materials related to the accusations.
If the parties can’t work out a settlement, they schedule a jury trial. But a judge can also rule in one party’s favor before it gets this far.
In documents filed last month, the state’s attorneys defended the transportation cabinet against Foss’ claims of negligence.
Workers had started repairing the lights on Jan. 24, two days before the crash, but they had to stop because of the rain. They planned to restart on Jan. 27, according to court records.
For five days, since the outage began, the Coast Guard warned everyone twice each day to proceed with caution.
The crew members noticed the problem from four miles off. They could have used radio equipment, radar, electronic charts, software and other technology to chart a safe course. But they chose a route not marked for transit by commercial vessels — it was too low, the state asserted.
The boat didn’t slow from its speed of 11.5 miles an hour, state attorneys said.
But Foss’ attorneys blame the accident on the lack of proper navigational lighting.
If the judge finds Foss liable at all, it shouldn’t be liable for more than the value of the boat and the freight, the attorneys said. The boat was worth $13 million immediately after the crash and the freight $227,900, but the cost of repairs will detract from the value.
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