Federal Suit Filed Against Suspect Tanker Owners

Federal Suit Filed Against Suspect Tanker’s Owner, Operator
Starbound Widow’s US Case Follows Action In Canada
By Brian MacQuarrie
The Boston Globe

The widow of a Maine fisherman who died in the Aug. 5 sinking of the trawler Starbound filed suit yesterday in US District Court in Boston against the owner and operator of the Russian tanker that allegedly collided with the vessel.

Amy Sanfilippo of Thomaston, Maine, the widow of James Sanfilippo, is seeking $6 million in damages from ALT Navigation l.t.d. of Cyprus, which owns the oil tanker M.T. Virgo, and the Primorsk Shipping Corp., which manages the ship.

The lawsuit is a companion action to the $6 million civil suit filed by Sanfilippo last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Carol Doughty of Yarmouth, Maine, the widow of another Starbound crew member, also filed a $6 million suit in Newfoundland last week.

David Anderson, an attorney who represents Sanfilippo, said Boston is the better venue for such a lawsuit because both vessels have New England connections, the plaintiff’s witnesses are closer to Boston than Newfoundland, and the fatal collision occurred 130 miles off Cape Ann.

The Starbound, based in Rockland, Maine, was returning home from a fishing trip when the 83-foot trawler allegedly was rammed by the 541-foot Virgo, which was steaming from Boston to Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland.

“The widows would like to have this case resolved in New England,” Anderson said.

Sanfilippo initially filed suit in Newfoundland, Anderson said, to gain security for her claim. The Virgo has been detained in Newfoundland since Aug. 7 and cannot leave the province unless a multimillion-dollar bond is approved. In addition, the Maine company that owns the Starbound has filed a $1.5 million civil suit in St. John’s.

Since last week, Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been inspecting the boat for evidence of a major collision. Electronic equipment also had been scrutinized under a search warrant that was to expire last evening.

The Virgo’s captain and two deck officers were arrested last Tuesday in St. John’s as they tried to board a plane for London. They have been charged by the US Coast Guard with maritime misconduct and involuntary manslaughter in a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in Washington.

The suspects, who are free on bail but cannot leave Newfoundland, are awaiting an extradition hearing in St. John’s.