Jury awards $4.5 million in death of St. Louis towboat crewman


(ST. LOUIS) — A jury has ordered a St. Louis towboat operator to pay $4.5 million to the family of a crewmember who drowned in 2015 when the vessel he was working on sank in the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The 61-foot Charlie Boy struck a barge, capsized and sank on July 19, 2015 on the Missouri side of the river near East Davis Street and Broadway in St. Louis. Two other crewmen escaped.

Oliver Johnson, 51, of St. Louis, drowned due to what his family claimed in a 2016 lawsuit was an “unseaworthy” boat. The suit, filed by Johnson’s wife and daughter, blamed the boat’s operator, Osage Marine Services Inc., for Johnson’s death, claiming the boat lacked watertight doors and that Johnson’s fellow crewmembers lacked the competence to operate a safe boat.

Patrick Bader, a lawyer for Johnson’s family, said Charlie Boy was previously named Valley Sunshine. In May 1996, Valley Sunshine sank in the Mississippi River south of the MacArthur Bridge, killing three crewmembers.

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By Professional Mariner Staff