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March 14th, 2011

Not Guilty Plea in Deadly Tennessee River Tugboat-Fishing Boat Accident

A tugboat operator, who faced charges of criminally negligent homicide in a deadly accident involving his tugboat and a fishing vessel on the Tennessee River last year, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The tugboat operator, 39-year-old Warren Luetke was at the helm of a tugboat that was towing a 647-foot barge combination, which plowed into the fishing vessel on June 19.  There were three fishermen on the boat, and two of them fell overboard as the massive tugboat-barge combination rammed into their vessel.  They died, and one fisherman survived.  Their vessel sank.

Last week, Luetke pleaded a not-guilty plea to two charges of criminally negligent homicide against him.  The company that owned the boat, Serodino Incorporated has also denied all liability in the accident.  According to the company, the two fishermen who died were responsible for their own deaths.

Meanwhile, the accident continues to be under investigation by the US Coast Guard and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.  Investigators have focused on whether the tugboat had an appropriate lookout, and whether failure to have a proper lookout contributed to this fatal maritime accident.

The tugboat, the Bearcat had also been involved in other maritime collision in 2009.  In that case too, the tugboat had collided with another small fishing boat on the Tennessee River.  In that accident, a man on the fishing vessel died, and the tugboat company denied all responsibility for the man’s death.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent victims of tugboat accidents, barge accidents, and offshore oil rig accidents in Texas and across the globe.

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