Sunday, May 15, 2005

Police Officers Injured in Boating Accident to Sue State?

Police Officers Injured In Boating Accident To Sue State POSTED: 5:06 pm EDT May 13, 2005 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A pair of Jacksonville Sheriff's officers who were injured by debris from the old Fuller Warren Bridge will file a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation for failing to remove pilings that created a safety hazard in the water, Channel 4's Casey Black confirmed Friday. James Brunet James Brunet and Keith Nazworth were injured Feb. 3 while patrolling the St. Johns River in preparation for Super Bowl XXXIX when the boat they were traveling in crashed into a piling from the old bridge. Brunet, 41, suffered a broken neck and spent several months in the Intensive Care Unit at Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center. He underwent reconstructive surgery on his face and was forced to wear a halo on his head until it was removed last week. "I apparently sacrificed my face for the health of my brain," Brunet said. Nazworth, 39, was also injured in the accident, breaking his ribs. Now Brunet and Nazworth are seeking damages. On Monday, the law firm of Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell & Matthews, which represents the officers, will file its intent to sue the DOT. The suit might also be targeted at Balfour Beatty, the former contractor of the old bridge. According to investigators, rain and fog restricted visibility the night of the accident, and the amount of traffic on the river made the waterway congested. They also noted that the clear plastic weather screen at the helm impaired visibility. "We complied with all navigational requirements for this river for the Super Bowl," DOT spokesman Mike Goldman said. He said that in meetings leading up to the week of the Super Bowl, no mention was ever made about lighting the old pilings. In fact, Goldman said, the DOT has tried unsuccessfully for years to try to take down the remaining portions of the old bridge. "We started the demolition in the fall of 2001, and then we were stopped with cease and desist orders from the federal agencies," Goldman said. Federal authorities mandated that DOT officials quit dumping debris from the old bridge into the water after environmentalists protested DOT disposal methods. The accident report issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission stated that Nazworth, who was operating the boat, failed to maintain proper lookout. It also mentioned that the patrol boat was traveling 40 mph at the time of impact. Previous Stories: February 15, 2005: Officer Critically Injured In Boating Accident Slowly Recovering February 4, 2005: Two Police Officers Hurt When Boat Hits Bridge Piling

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