Reporting Pat Ciarrocchi
By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Eyewitness News got a rare look today into the duck boat crash that took the lives of two Hungarian students in the summer of 2010.
The lawyer for those killed released the October 2011 deposition of Matthew Devlin — a tugboat first mate, who left his post as the pilot — in the midst of a personal crisis. He was responsible for pushing a sludge barge up the Delaware River, the vessel that crashed into the duck boat that sat stranded just off Penn’s Landing.
For Matthew Devlin, it was a routine run that day. But at home, doctors were to perform eye surgery on Devlin’s five year old son.
“It’s a surgery that takes about 15 minutes, so nothing to worry about,” Devlin says doctors told him. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time there isn’t a problem.”
But just minutes after taking his place in the upper pilothouse of the tug, where visibility was unobstructed, Devlin got a cell phone call from his wife.
“She was very upset and she said, ‘There was a complication with the surgery…a doctor, somebody, came out and told her that he went eight minutes without oxygen.’”
Devlin says he went to the lower pilothouse, where visibility was not as good.
“I was…I felt nauseous and sick, and I needed to hear her better so I moved downstairs.”
The deposition details multiple cell phone calls over an hour. Cell phone use by pilots on duty was against company policy, but Devlin indicated it had been tolerated by management. Devlin said he couldn’t focus and was searching the internet looking for information about being under surgery without oxygen.
Meanwhile, the duck boat with 37 passengers on board had stalled on the river. The last time Devlin saw it, was 40 minutes before the crash. He heard no distress calls.
Devlin was asked when he first learned of the collision. Stammering, he said, “When, I saw the orange life vests floating out in the front of the barge.”
The time of the crash was 2:37 p.m. That was more than an hour after Devlin left the upper pilothouse. In November, Devlin was sentenced to a year for involuntary manslaughter.
Right now, at the request of Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi – who represented the families of those killed — the city is considering a modest memorial to remember the lives lost that day.