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Lawsuit filed in Charleston on behalf of dredge vessel drowning victim

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The estate of a man who drowned when the dredge support vessel he was operating capsized in Charleston Harbor is suing the company that owned the boat.

Derrick Nesmith was operating the Addi-Kate on April 11 when a leak in the engine compartment caused seawater to fill the compartment and destabilize the vessel, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

A deckhand was able to abandon the boat as it started listing, but Nesmith was still in the wheelhouse as it capsized. His body was found the next day in the Ashley River, about five miles upstream from where the Addi-Kate sank.

Joyce Nesmith, representative for the estate, is suing Charleston-based Southern Dredging Co. Inc. She alleges the company violated the federal Jones Act, which requires maritime employers to provide a safe working environment. She also alleges the Addi-Kate was an unseaworthy vessel because it did not have a working bilge pump and alarm.

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Southern Dredging did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has not filed a formal response to the lawsuit and no court dates have been set.

The accident occurred when the Addi-Kate was assisting another vessel that was towing a 1,000-foot-long by 30-foot-wide raft of dredge pipe through Charleston Harbor to the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant. When the Addi-Kate capsized, according to the lawsuit, it rolled under the pipe raft and then sank to the bottom of Charleston Harbor.

Joyce Nesmith also is suing over a 2017 injury Derrick Nesmith suffered while working on the Dredge Brunswick in North Carolina. The lawsuit alleges he was hospitalized for several days after cutting his finger while working on the dredge boat and was not compensated by Southern Dredging for his medical care. She is seeking an unspecified amount of actual and punitive damages.

The accident occurred about five months after another Southern Dredging vessel, the Miss Anne, capsized and sank in the Cooper River near Shipyard Creek. The three crew members on board during that incident were recovered safely. The Miss Anne had been helping to reposition equipment for the Dredge Brunswick.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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