A collision with the concrete structure pictured at left in the Cape Fear River took the life of a woman riding in a powerboat on the night of August 4, 2012. The woman's husband, who had decades of boating experience, was steering the craft when the accident occurred. He and two other adults on the boat suffered injuries.
According to WMBF-TV, the boat was cruising north to Wilmington, North Carolina (NC), on a return trip from a dinner outing to Southport and had swerved to avoid crashing into a barge approaching from the opposite direction. The boat was traveling approximately 30 mph when it hit the obstacle.
U.S. Coast Guard and North Carolina maritime authorities told reporters that alcohol was not a factor in the deadly collision and that no charges were immediately filed. The investigation into the incident continues.
The North Carolina Boat Accident Lawyers' Perspective
As North Carolina boat accident attorneys, we understand that families suffering tragic losses like this may never even consider what, if any, legal options may be available to them. However, two details deserve particular attention from investigators here.
The first is the conduct of the barge or barge tug captain, and the second is the presence and condition of the structure. Rules of the road on the water generally dictate that smaller craft should stand away to permit passage to larger vessels. If the channel in which the boat and barge were traveling was marked to grant right of way to vessels traveling from the south, however, the master of the barge and its owner could bear liability for the fatal accident.
The second issue seems even more troubling: The concrete structure, a remnant of a quarantine station that burned down in 1953, sits in the channel but is not marked with reflectors, lights or buoys.
It's hard to conceive of the structure as anything but a hazard to navigation. As such, the structure should be removed, clearly marked or made as unapproachable as possible. Why none of those actions has been taken to protect recreational boaters and commercial sailors is unclear, as is who bears responsibility for removing or securing the hazard.
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