I felt sense of guilt, skipper tells court

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Sarah Tallman, whose husband Chris drowned after a wave capsized a shark operators boat. Picture: Brenton Geach

Cape Town -

The skipper of the shark-cage diving vessel that capsized near Kleinbaai has testified that he felt a sense of guilt after a “rogue, freak wave” crashed into them, capsize the boat and killing three people.

Grant Tuckett was cross-examined by advocate David Melunsky in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. Melunsky is acting for Sarah Tallman whose husband, Chris, died after the vessel capsized on April 13, 2008.

Tallman’s friend Casey Lajeunesse and Norwegian tourist Kenneth Rogue also died. They had been on holiday.

Tuckett is testifying in the civil case Tallman brought against him, the vessel, Shark Team, and shark cage diving business, White Shark Projects, to establish whether they are liable for her husband’s death.

She is suing for $2.2 million (R24m) in damages, alleging the defendants were negligent when they went out to sea that day.

The defendants have denied this and are challenging the action.

Melunsky asked Tuckett on Wednesday how long he had been tormented with feelings of guilt after what happened.

“I still am and probably will always be,” Tuckett responded.

The court heard that Tuckett suffered from depression after the incident, and had sleepless nights.

Melunsky asked whether Tuckett felt responsible and guilty for what happened.

“Yes, it’s most definitely your responsibility every time you take passengers out to sea… Yes, a huge amount of guilt; whether it’s your fault or not you’re going to have a thousand questions running through your mind,” Tuckett said.

Melunsky asked whether he or the rescue vessel, White Shark, could have done anything different that day and if it was his case that the capsizing was an “inevitable accident, one of those things that just happen”.

“Yes. There was absolutely nothing that we could do,” Tuckett said.

He said a freak or rogue wave caused the capsize.

Melunsky said he did not understand Tuckett’s guilt if he felt that he could not have done anything to save the lives of the three tourists.

“I wouldn’t be a human being if I didn’t feel guilt. But that doesn’t mean it’s my fault,” Tuckett said.

“I’ve had a lot of help from friends and family, professional help and six years to deal with the emotions.”

He conceded that the safety of the passengers, monitoring the weather and sea conditions and whether to cancel the trip were his responsibility and not that of the owners of the vessel. The hearing continues.

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Cape Argus


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