Three months after the United States Coast Guard wrapped up its hearings, the first lawsuit has been filed against Bounty owner Robert Hansen and HMS Bounty Organization.
The suit was filed May 13 at a federal court on Long Island by the mother of Claudene Christian, a crew member who died when the tall ship sank during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
The $50 million lawsuit alleges that negligence and poor judgment led to the sinking of the ship and that Christian “lost her life as the direct result of Hansen and Bounty Organization's willful, callous and reckless conduct.”
Christian died as a result of being thrown overboard, while Captain Robin Walbridge's body was never recovered. The other 14 crew members made it safely off the ship.
The suit claims that the Bounty was in financial trouble before setting off, and that a charity fundraiser in St. Petersburg, Fla., was one of the reasons the ship ventured out into a hurricane.
“Captain Walbridge, who was focused on the rewards lying at St. Petersburg, recklessly ignored Sandy's size, scope and intensity,” the suit claims. “He also grossly overestimated, to the point of recklessness, Bounty's seaworthiness and overestimated his professional seamanship and weather forecasting abilities to the point of arrogant hubris.”
The suit also recounts some of the testimony given during the February proceedings, where Boothbay Harbor Boatyard project manager Todd Kosakowski revealed that the ship had visible rot.
“During the course of the 2012 drydocking, Kosakowski discovered extensive deterioration and rotting of frames and planking on both sides of the vessel and also in a portion of the vessel's stern,” the suit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that Walbridge and Hansen were aware of the rotting and that Kosakowski advised them not to sail in “any significant or heavy weather conditions.”
During the February hearings several other problems were revealed to have plagued the Bounty, some of which including the balky bilge pumps and relative inexperience of the crew, were outlined in the suit.
“In short, the combination of Bounty going to meet Frankenstorm Sandy was the greatest mismatch between a 'vessel' and a peril of the sea that would ever occur or could ever be imagined,” the suit claims.
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 207-633-4620 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BBRegisterBen.