Families: Barge caused fatal capsize; company denies fault

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Family members of five people who died when a boat capsized on the Ohio River say in federal court documents that the placement and condition of a construction barge caused the tragedy.

Walsh Construction Company said in court filings that it is the barge’s owner, but the Chicago-based company said it is not responsible for the crash and has asked a judge to exonerate or limit its liability under maritime law.

Nine people, including five children, were aboard a pontoon boat July 4 to watch fireworks when the river’s rushing current slammed the boat into a barge.

The boat capsized, and five people drowned. Three children and an adult were able to make it to safety.

Lawyers for the families asked the court to dismiss the company’s request, saying they want a jury trial for unspecified damages.

According to the court filings, the families said the company was negligent because it didn’t use “adequate procedures” to assure the barge was seaworthy, properly lit and placed in a location where it “did not pose a danger and cause swift and dangerous currents and eddies to passing vehicles” like the pontoon boat.

Attorneys for Walsh Construction, which is overseeing construction of new bridges across the river, said in court filings that it used “due diligence” to make the barge seaworthy and that the company bears no fault in the incident.

Four members of the Swinney family were killed along with 37-year-old Joyce Wright.

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