By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The first mate of the tugboat that collided with a duck boat on the Delaware River in July 2010, killing two Hungarian students, admits he could have avoided the duck boat if he saw it in time.

In a taped deposition, First Mate Matt Devlin told lawyers representing claimants and vessel operators he could have maneuvered the ship out of harm’s way if he wasn’t distracted by a family emergency.

Lawyer: “It would take you possibly somewhere the area of 30 seconds if you saw the duck to avoid it?”

Devlin: “30-seconds to one minute, yes.”

He says he would have needed about 200 feet of space, “in those conditions because of the strong up current that was running, you’d be able to stop very quickly. And the barge was light.”

Devlin was on his cell phone for a family emergency when the barge hit the duck boat.

Lawyer: “You told us the news of your son’s condition did compromise your ability to stand watch?”

Devlin: “Absolutely, yes.”

Lawyer: “Did you call the captain for assistance?”

Devlin: “No.”

Lawyer: “How far away was the captain’s cabin?”

Devlin: “About ten feet.”

His deposition was never used, because the civil suit never went to trial.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board said Devlin was so preoccupied that he did not even realize at first the tug pushed the 250-foot barge into the 33-foot duck boat.

He’s serving a one-year prison term after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

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