Settlement Reached in Wrongful Death Lawsuit over 2010 Boat Accident


The parents of two Hungarian students who died when a barge collided with their tour boat in Philadelphia settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that operated the two vessels and the city. The settlement occurred after two days of trial in federal court, after the judge urged the attorneys to try to settle the case. The defendants had asserted caps on liability based on federal maritime law.

The two students, 16 year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20 year-old Szabolcs Prem, drowned after an eighty-yard barge collided with their tour boat in July 2010. The tour boat, an amphibious “duck boat” that could both drive on land and water, had become disabled. Someone had reportedly left a radiator cap off of the engine, causing it to overheat in the 103-degree weather. The captain dropped anchor in the middle of a busy channel on the Delaware River near downtown Philadelphia, having mistaken steam coming off the engine for a fire. The duck boat reportedly lacked a radio and an emergency air horn. Thirty-seven passengers and crew were on board.

A tugboat was pushing the barge in the same channel. The tugboat captain, reportedly distracted by a family medical emergency, had moved to a part of the boat where he could not see the river in order to use his cellphone. He therefore did not see the duck boat, which was dead in the water in the barge’s path. The barge crashed into the duck boat, causing it to capsize and sending thirty-five passengers and crew into the water. Schwendtner and Prem were trapped on the boat, where they drowned. At least twenty-six people were injured. The tug pilot pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in November 2011 and received a one-year prison sentence.