Matthew R. Devlin: Tug mate will plead guilty in deadly Duck Boat crash

The tug mate involved in the deadly duck boat crash a year ago will plead guilty to the charge of misconduct of a ship operator causing death, which was filed today, according to federal prosecutors.

Matthew R. Devlin, 35, of Catskill, N.Y., was piloting the M/V Caribbean Sea that was towing a city-owned barge on the Delaware River when it ran over a stalled Ride the Ducks vessel, killing Hungarian students Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16. The investigation shows Devlin was on his personal cell phone and a laptop computer for about 30 minutes leading up to and during the accident dealing with a medical matter involving his 5-year-old son.

Investigators say Devlin was operating from the lower wheelhouse instead of the upper wheelhouse, which significantly reduced his visibility, and did not have a lookout posted, causing him to essentially “drive blind.”

As part of the expected plea agreement, Devlin will agree to permanently give up his Coast Guard-issued maritime license, and federal prosecutors will only seek a 3-year prison term instead of the 10-year maximum.

Federal prosecutors said no other criminal investigations related to the crash are underway. Civil proceedings involving Devlin and several others are still open.

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