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Norwegian tanker owner denies fault in fatal Texas collision

Posted at 9:10 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 22:10:35-05

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - The owner of a chemical tanker ship has denied any liability for a collision with a fishing boat off the coast of Texas that killed one crew member and left two more missing and presumed dead.

Norway-based Odfjell SE filed a motion Friday in response to a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of one of the fishermen who was killed. The family accuses Odfjell SE of failing to safely operate its 600-foot tanker, the Bow Fortune.

The ship collided with the 81-foot Paddy's Pride on Jan. 14 near the entrance to Galveston Bay. The lone survivor, who had been aboard the smaller boat, suffered a broken leg and was rescued from the water. Authorities recovered the body of Constantino Corona, a 59-year-old from Palacios. The Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office determined that he drowned, said John "D.J." Florence, a spokesman for the office.

The Coast Guard and other first responders searched for two days, but the two other fishermen were still missing as of Monday, Petty Officer 2nd Class Johanna Strickland told the Galveston County Daily News.

Officials have not revealed the identities of the two crew members who are missing and presumed dead, but Raymond Herrera Jr. and Tabitha Herrera say their father, Raymond Anthony Herrera, is one of them.

In their lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Herreras say their father was killed because Odfjell SE neglected to properly inspect and maintain the tanker, and that the company didn't adequately supervise or train its crew.

The company says it is not at fault for any damages caused by the crash, that it maintains the tanker and ensured it was seaworthy at the time of the collision, court documents show.

The newspaper could not reach the attorneys representing Odfjell SE or the Herreras for comment on Monday.

Arnold & Itkin LLP, the firm representing the Herreras, said in a statement that Odfjell SE is relying on a 150-year-old law that was intended to protect vessel owners from risky voyages.

"While the law served its purpose in 1851, it's now used by negligent companies to avoid accountability," the law firm said in an online statement.

The Herreras' lawsuit requests a jury trial and calls for the Bow Fortune to be sold and condemned.

The crash remains under investigation.