Jan. 2, 2002 The widow of a man who was killed in January 2000 when his boat hit a mooring line from a Dutch naval ship docked at Crown Bay has sued the V.I. Port Authority and the shipping agent that arranged the ships port of call.
Attorney Fred Watts filed the claim Dec. 21 in District Court on behalf of Kathleen Johnson, a Michigan resident who was married to Robert Johnson.
In her lawsuit, Johnson claims the Port Authority, which controls harbors in the territory, High Seas Maritime Inc. and its employee Pat Hotchkiss were negligent in setting up an unmarked mooring line across an area that has a high level of boat traffic between Crown Bay and Water Island.
On Jan. 7, 2000, the Dutch naval vessel VanSpeijk was docked at Crown Bay harbor. A mooring line had been attached connecting the vessel to a mooring dolphin about 300 feet from the pier, the suit states.
That same mooring dolphin, which was placed there in 1983, is regularly used to attach lines to larger cruise ships, from which the mooring lines would descend at a sharp angle. But because the naval ship was smaller, the line stretched nearly horizontally at a height of about six feet above the waters surface, the suit states.
That morning, Robert Johnson was driving a boat, with his wife as passenger, from Flamingo Bay at Water Island to Crown Bay, the lawsuit states.
The boat hit the light-colored and unmarked mooring line, smashing the boats center console and helm, and causing severe head and back injuries to Robert Johnson. He was flown to Miami for medical care where he was found to be paralyzed and died 46 days later, the lawsuit states.
The complaint asks for monetary damages, claiming negligence and reckless disregard for safety by setting up the mooring line in the area and not marking it.
No response from the Port Authority or High Seas Maritime has been filed in connection with the lawsuit yet.