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Sunday, April 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Houseboat Death Action Survives Bid to Dismiss

(CN) - A family's houseboat vacation on the idyllic Lake Powell turned nightmarish when carbon monoxide seeped into their rooms as they slept after silently building up on the boat for days, killing one man as he attempted to wake his children and grandchildren and radio for help, according to a federal lawsuit moving forward in Utah.

The Howeth family filed an amended complaint recently against Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, the houseboat concessionaire at the popular lake in the Utah-Arizona canyonlands.

Robert Howeth rented the houseboat from Aramark at the Wahweap Marina in late June 2008. The party included seven members of the Howeths' extended family, including minor children, according to the complaint.

On the third night of their vacation, the family had docked the boat for the night, when Glenn Howeth, Robert's brother, awoke to find his grandson vomiting.

"Glenn became aware of the danger, woke the family members, and radioed for assistance," the complaint states. "All the members of the Howeth family showed various signs of carbon monoxide poisoning at the time Glenn Howeth attempted to wake them, including but not exclusively, loss of consciousness, vomiting, headaches, and nausea."

Glenn Howeth suffered a fatal heat attack brought on by the carbon monoxide poisoning while radioing for help, according to the complaint.

"All members of the Howeth family were later diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning by medical professionals and were life-flighted to the hospital."

The family alleges that Aramark employees failed to instruct them in the proper operation of the carbon monoxide detectors, and that those same detectors "failed to alarm and alert the Howeth family of the presence of toxic and injurious levels of carbon monoxide."

The amended complaint comes after U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart refused to grant Aramark's motion to dismiss the lawsuit on April 13. Earlier, a magistrate judge dismissed Aramark's request for exoneration under the Limitation of Liability Act, finding the boat owner's claim that it had admiralty jurisdiction unconvincing because of the "stationary nature of the vessel" and "its location outside the flow of usual navigable travel."

The family sued Aramark for negligence, and sued manufacturers Twin Anchors Marine, Centek Industries, Marine Technologies and Westerbeke for product liability, failure to warn, and breach of implied and express warranty.

"By 2004, each of the defendants knew or had reason to know that carbon monoxide poisoning from water craft and houseboats was a national problem with more than 700 known poisonings before 2004, including more than one hundred 100 confirmed deaths, many of which occurred at Lake Powell," the complaint states.

The Howeths are represented by Jordan Kendell of Eisenberg & Gilchrist of Salt Lake City. Their initial lawsuit was filed in June 2010.

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