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Century-old law being invoked in case against duck boat captain

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2018 | Boating Accidents

While boating in New York’s harbors, lakes and rivers may offer people a thrilling adventure, it also comes with certain risks that are not encountered in other scenarios. For this reason, those who engage in this activity (and especially those who offer it as a commercial service) are expected to be skilled in not only operating their crafts but also recognizing and protecting their passengers from dangerous situations. Some might argue that places a higher standard on them, yet given the dangers that the open water can present, such expectations may be warranted. 

Indeed, back in the 1800’s when steamboat travel was common, federal legislation was enacted that sought to hold boat captains (and crew members) criminally culpable when passengers on their vessels died due to their negligence. The law required that prosecutors only had to prove that defendants engaged in simple negligence (as opposed to gross negligence) when prosecuting this charge (which came to be known as “seaman’s manslaughter”). 

Over 180 years later, the captain of a duck boat that capsized in a Missouri lake while on a pleasure cruise is facing that same charge. Authorities say that he failed to heed weather advisories that indicated a storm was coming, and that he did not warn his passengers to put on life jackets even when it was apparent that the craft was in trouble. 17 people were killed in the sinking. 

Accidents are often just that, yet the fact that they were unanticipated should not excuse the poor decisions that may have contributed to them. Those looking to hold the people who caused boating accidents that affected them may want to seek out the services of an attorney skilled in the area of maritime law.