CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - A Coast Guard ship racing against another Coast Guard vessel smashed into a holiday cruise ship with 22 people aboard, the owners of the charter business say in a federal complaint.
Plaintiffs Mark A. Fox and Barbara Fox operate Pegasus Charters. They say the Coast Guard has inspected their vessel, the M/V Thriller 09, and is aware of its soundness and its features, including LED lights.
On the evening of Dec. 9, 2009, the Thriller was making a holiday harbor cruise, when "suddenly and without warning," it was struck on its starboard side by one of the two Coast Guard vessels.
The Foxes say the Coast Guard vessel was "dark, speeding and not visible to a lookout".
"The sole cause of the collision, the damages to the vessel, and any resulting personal injuries of passengers was the negligence of the crew of the United States Coast Guard vessel in failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to maintain a safe and prudent speed, failure to appreciate the risk of collision, failure to follow the rules of navigation, failure to take timely and appropriate action to avoid the collision, operating after dusk without the required navigational and operational lights, using personal communications devices instead of attending urgently to their duties, in operating a vessel on the water in dangerous condition, i.e. interior screens so bright they prevented the crew from being able to properly see and observe navigational obstacles, and failure to otherwise operate their vessel in a safe and prudent manner," according to the complaint.
The Foxes say the display on the Coast Guard response boast has been cited as being too bright and interfering with Coast Guard personnel's ability to keep a proper lookout. "Defendants operating said vessels were racing each other through the channel, knowing that there were recreational vessels out," the complaint states.
The Foxes sued the Coast Guard, the United States and the Department of Homeland Security. They seek damages for negligence, property damage, lost profits, interference with contract, and exoneration from or limitation of liability from passengers' injury claims.
They are represented by Jarrel Wigger of North Charleston.
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