Three Charged in Deadly Tanzania Ferry Accident

Ferry accidents are often the result of human error. For instance, as we discussed on Monday, the Alaska Department of Transportation recently determined a maneuvering error lead to the May 7 collision between the M/V MATANUSKA and the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg, Alaska.

Just days after Alaskan officials concluded their investigation, a Tanzanian ferry capsized while traveling from the capital city of Dar es Salaam to the island of Zanzibar. Unlike the Petersburg incident, in which no one was injured, dozens lost their lives when the M/V SKAGIT sank in the Indian Ocean on July 18. According to the Xinhua News Agency, 128 people were confirmed dead and 16 people were still missing as of July 31.

Although the M/V SKAGIT was certified to carry only 250 passengers, there were reportedly 290 people on board. One of those passengers was 26-year-old Hilary Strasburger of Somerville, Mass. According to her mother, she and a friend escaped through a kicked-out window and swam to a lifeboat. Strasburger is one of 146 known survivors.

Ferries are designed to carry a maximum number of passengers — any overcrowding can jeopardize the vessel’s stability. Exceeding a vessel’s passenger capacity constitutes negligence. According to, three people have been charged with manslaughter in connection with the M/V SKAGIT incident: the vessel’s owner, the captain and the company manager.

Sadly, the M/V SKAGIT is not the first Tanzanian ferry to sink with too many people on board. Last September, the M/V SPICE ISLANDER capsized off the coast of Zanzibar carrying more than 1,000 people (well over its passenger capacity of 620) and twice its allowed payload.

If you have lost a family member in a ferry accident or been seriously injured in one, visit our website to learn more about maritime injuries and deaths, and call us toll free at (800) 392-6072 to discuss your case with a knowledgeable Boston maritime attorney.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers