Wepfer Marine reaches settlement with family of two who died in towboat sinking

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Local media report that Wepfer Marine has reached a settlement with surviving family members of two men who died in the December 2017 capsizing and sinking of the 1976-built towboat Ricky Robinson.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board marine accident brief, the Ricky Robinson capsized and sank on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 732.8 near Memphis, Tennessee, with two crew members on board, after the towing vessel began taking on water. The pilot made a distress call just before the sinking; neither crewmember was found during the search and rescue operations that followed. When the vessel was recovered 9 days later, the deckhand’s body was discovered inside the wreckage; the pilot was presumed to be dead. Approximately 200 gallons of diesel oil were released into the river. Damage to the Ricky Robinson was estimated at $1.5 million.

PROBABLE CAUSE

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the sinking of the towing vessel Ricky Robinson was the pilot’s decision to proceed with unsecured deck hatches at a speed that resulted in water on deck and flooding of the aft voids. Contributing to the sinking was the company’s inadequate oversight to ensure that crews kept hatches closed while the vessel was under way and that ongoing watertight issues with the voids were addressed.

FAMILIES FILE SUIT

Media reports identified the two men who died in the incident as pilot Keith Pigram, 34, and his step son, Anquavious Jamison, 19.

Attorney Aaron Negila subsequently filed a law suit on behalf of Jamison’s mother, saying he would be asking for more than $5 million.

According to the Commercial Appeal newspaper, Jeff Bloomfield, a Memphis-based specialist in maritime law, represented the captain’s estate.

Reporting the settlement, the Commercial Appeal said that the financial terms settlement were not disclosed in court records, though the records show that the beneficiaries include the deceased pilot’s five children.

Read the Commercial Appeal Report HERE

Download the NTSB marine accident brief HERE

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