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Distracted driving the culprit in Philadelphia boat crash

Posted on May 15th, 2012

A settlement has been reached in boat crash where two Hungarian students were killed.

Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, were visiting the U.S. with their church group when their sightseeing boat was slammed into and capsized by a 250-foot-long barge, being pushed by a tug boat. The pilot of the tug, Matthew Devlin was on his cell phone while piloting the tug. Not only was Devlin on his cell phone, but he also turned down a marine radio which made the mayday calls void.

The families of the students were awarded $15 million in the wrongful-death trial. The eighteen surviving passengers will share $2 million. Devlin has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to the maritime equivalent of involuntary manslaughter.

A video shown during the trial showed Schwendtner, seconds before the crash, throwing a life jacket to a deckhand. The deckhand jumped from the boat and survived.

The family’s attorney, Robert Mongeluzzi, stated that although the family continues to grieve “they have renewed hope in the American justice system and that stricter regulations on cellphone use and tourist boat operating procedures might avert similar catastrophes on and off the water.”

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