Duck boat victim threw lifejacket overboard to help first mate

Posted: May 08, 2012

As a barge descended on a tiny duck boat in July 2010, 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner threw her life jacket overboard to help the duck's first mate, her family's lawyer said Monday.

"Watching the tape of my daughter dying was horrifying," Schwendtner's father, Peter, said through an interpreter shortly after opening arguments in the federal trial over the accident, which killed Schwendtner and Szabolcs Prem, who were visiting from Hungary.

In his opening statement, Robert Mongeluzzi showed dramatic video of the accident. The video was hard to see, but Mongeluzzi said the person throwing the life preserver was wearing a white shirt, as Schwendtner was that day, and was sitting in her seat.

"Sixteen-year-old Dora Schwendtner throws her life preserver to Kyle Burkhardt to save his life and because of the defendants' failures, she lost hers, Mongeluzzi said.

Schwendtner's mother, Aniko Takacs, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as Mongeluzzi spoke.

Mongeluzzi argued that both Ride The Ducks, which operates the amphibious vessels, and K-Sea Transportation Partners, which operated the tug that pushed a barge into the duck boat, were negligent in the case.

He is arguing before Judge Thomas O'Neill Jr that the two companies should be liable for more than the $1.8 million value of the two boats. An 1851 maritime law caps liability in some cases.

Lawyers for both companies countered that the accident was the fault of Matthew Devlin, the first mate on the tug. Devlin was on his cell phone dealing with what he believed was a life-threatening emergency involving his son.


Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com

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