Water taxi resumes Fort McHenry route

Shuttle service suspended after fatal harbor accident

Survivors recently filed lawsuit

May 15, 2004|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

Seaport Taxi plans to resume water shuttle service between Fells Point and Fort McHenry today, 10 weeks after a storm triggered a fatal accident on that route.

"We are pleased that the Fort McHenry destination is again part of the valuable service we offer to our citizens and visitors," said James Piper Bond, president of the Living Classrooms Foundation, which owns Seaport Taxi.

Seaport Taxi had not run the route since March 6, when a storm - packing gusts exceeding 50 mph - capsized the Lady D as it carried 23 tourists toward Fells Point. Five people died in the frigid waters, including a 6-year-old boy.

On Tuesday, three survivors of the tragedy filed a $17 million lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court, alleging that the owner and operator of the boat were negligent in running the vessel in threatening waters.

Spokespeople for Living Classrooms said that nature, not the nonprofit organization, should be blamed in the accident.

When service to Fort McHenry resumes today, passengers will climb aboard a larger boat - the Duffy - which carries up to 49 people. The Lady D had a capacity of 25.

The Duffy is 45 feet long and 12 feet wide. The Lady D, which was badly damaged and will not be salvaged, was 36 feet by 8 feet.

The move to a larger boat had nothing to do with a need for added stability, Bond said, explaining that the foundation simply wanted to accommodate heavy customer demand.

Seaport Taxi, which operates nine boats around the Inner Harbor, suspended all operations after the accident. On March 17, it resumed business, except for the Fort McHenry route.

Since the accident, the U.S. Coast Guard has reduced the capacity allowed on most of the Seaport Taxi boats and asked the foundation to move the pontoons on two of the vessels farther apart for stability. The Duffy did not require any structural changes, Bond said.

The foundation has also equipped all its vessels with weather radios tuned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's broadcast.

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