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January 10th, 2012

Pilot in Pennsylvania Tugboat-Tourist Boat Accident Sentenced to One Year in Prison

The pilot at the helm of a tugboat-barge formation that crashed into a Ride-the-Ducks amphibious tourist boat in the Delaware River last year killing two Hungarian tourists, has been sentenced to one year in prison.

An investigation report by the National Transportation Safety Board had found that the pilot, Matthew Devlin had been distracted by a family emergency while he was at the helm of the tugboat. Devlin had made and received a number of cell phone calls, and also browsed the Internet on his laptop several times. During this period of time, he turned the marine radio off.

As a result, he was not alerted to the fact that his tugboat was barreling towards the tourist boat that had stalled in the middle of the river. The operator of the smaller vessel had turned off the engine after he found smoke on board.

When the 250-foot barge towed by the tugboat crashed into the tourist boat, all the passengers in the smaller boat fell into the water. Two of them drowned. There were 34 passengers and two crew members on the boat at the time. In August, Devlin pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct of a ship operator causing death, and admitted that he had been distracted while operating a vessel.

The National Transportation Safety Board used this tragic maritime accident to draw attention to the growing threat from distractions involving cell phones and other electronic communication devices.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers  represent barge and tugboat workers injured in accidents.

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