Matthew R. Devlin: Charges filed in duck boat crash

The tug mate involved in the deadly duck boat crash a year ago was criminally charged in connection with the incident on Thursday and will plead guilty, federal prosecutors said.

Matthew R. Devlin, 35, of Catskill, N.Y., was piloting the M/V Caribbean Sea on July 7, 2010, as it towed a 250-foot barge on the Delaware River and crushed a stalled Ride the Ducks vessel with 35 passengers, killing Hungarian students Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16.

Devlin is charged with misconduct of a ship operator causing death. He has signed a plea agreement that will force him to permanently give up his Coast Guard-issued maritime license. In exchange for his guilty plea, the government will only seek a three-year prison sentence instead of the 10-year maximum.

The investigation revealed that Devlin, who was attending to medical complications with his 5-year-old son, violated numerous company policies — including using his personal cell phone while on watch — that prevented him from seeing the duck boat or hearing radio calls before the crash.

“When you’re on the water your attention should be on the water because there are people at risk that are on your ship,” said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, “but also people at risk in the waterway, so you need to focus.”

Prosecutors also said it wasn’t the first time Devlin had violated the company’s cell phone policy, but had done so numerous time in the previous year.

No other charges are expected to file related to the crash, Memeger said. Numerous civil suits are ongoing.

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