Maine Fisherman’s Widow Files Suit Against Tanker
By Dave Wedge
The widow of one of three New England fishermen drowned when a Russian vessel allegedly plowed into and sank their trawler lodged a $6 million wrongful death lawsuit in a Canadian court yesterday.
Aimee Lynne Sanfilippo, widow of James Sanfilippo, filed suit in a St. John’s, Newfoundland, court, seeking to have the Virgo impounded and sold at auction if the owners refuse to pay damages.
U.S. Coast Guard officials say the 541-foot Russian ship was on autopilot when it ran down and sank the Starbound fishing boat 130 miles off the coast of Maine Aug. 5, killing Sanfilippo, Mark Doughty and Tom Frontiero.
The Starbound’s captain, James Marcantonio, survived by climbing into an inflatable life raft.
The Virgo’s captain, Vladimir Ivanov, 46, and crewmen Dmitriy Bogdanov, 26, and Mikhail Gerasimenko, 49, are charged with manslaughter and negligence for the three fishermen‘s death.
Coast Guard investigators say the ship was traveling too fast for the foggy weather and that the crew failed to properly post a lookout, wasn’t monitoring the radar and did nothing to avoid the collision.
The suit also faults the Virgo crew for allegedly ignoring Coast Guard distress signals and failing to stop to help the Starbound as it sank nose first into the ocean.
“The Master and Crew of the M.T. ‘Virgo’ failed to render assistance to James Sanfilippo and the F.V. ‘Starbound’ and its crew after running over the F.V. ‘Starbound,'” the suit states.
David Anderson, attorney for Aimee Sanfilippo and her two children, said the suit names the Virgo as an insurance policy in case the Russian crew flees the country.
“They’re not going to abandon the vessel. It’s worth too much money,” Anderson said. “If they left, (the Canadian government) would auction the boat and pay the families.”
The families of Doughty and Frontiero have yet to file suit but Anderson said more legal claims are imminent.
“The families are now starting to take care of things not related to funerals and memorials,” Anderson said.
Coast Guard officials say the Virgo was the ship closest to the crash scene and that paint found on the ship’s damaged hull matches the Starbound’s teal paint.
Lawyers for the Russian crew have denied that the Virgo was the ship that sank the Starbound. The Russian government has also criticized the Canadian government’s handling of the probe.
The three Russians are free on bail but are required to stay in Newfoundland until they are extradited to the United States to face the charges in Washington, D.C.
The Virgo remained docked in Newfoundland yesterday while investigators continued to inspect the ship’s hull and electronic equipment.