Four people injured when a dock gangway in St. Marys collapsed five months ago have filed suit against the Southeast Georgia city, blaming the dock’s “weakness and otherwise defective condition” in their complaints.
The three-page complaints, one each filed by couples Carole and Leslie Shively and Roy and Sandra Aders, claim negligence on behalf of the city as well as damages for the incident as they and others boarded a tour boat on Sept. 20.
Attorneys John Morgan and Kendall Shortway represent the plaintiffs. They said they anticipate that the litigation will ultimately include construction companies and contractors that rebuilt the dock in 2020 after Hurricane Irma. The resulting collapse was due to “an abject failure by the city government and the contractors,” according to a statement from the attorneys.
“It’s reasonable to trust that public infrastructure like bridges or boat docks have been built and installed according to applicable codes and safety regulations,” the law firm’s statement reads. “Unfortunately, our clients’ trust in the City of St. Marys was misplaced.”
St. Marys City Attorney Steven Blackerby declined to comment about the suit, stating that they do not make public comments about pending litigation “in order to maintain the integrity of the legal process.”
Retired Navy submariners and their family members were making their way to a floating dock to get on a river cruise boat for a St. Marys River tour when the gangway collapsed, leaving 17 people injured, according to a city statement sent to News4Jax.
Police and firefighters were called around 10:15 a.m. to the collapsed walkway at the boat ramps at St. Marys and Wheeler streets.
“Witnesses standing along the pier as well as those who were involved in the incident reported a sudden loud noise as the walkway collapsed into the river,” Horton said.
The law firm said that when the metal gangway broke away from the wooden dock, the Aders and the Shivelys fell more than 20 feet into the river below. The Aders both suffered broken bones, followed by surgery and at-home health care, while the Shivelys also suffered leg and ankle injuries.