A widow suing a shark-cage diving company for the drowning of her husband when a vessel capsized off Kleinbaai six years ago, flew in from the US to testify about the legality of her marriage.
On Monday, Sarah Tallman of North Carolina told the Western Cape High Court she was “horrified” that anyone thought she was not legally married to Christopher “Chris” Tallman.
Investment banker Tallman, his close friend Casey Lajeunesse and a Norwegian tourist, Kenneth Rogue, died on April 13, 2008, when the vessel, Shark Team, capsized. Another 16 people were rescued.
Tallman was testifying in her R24-million damages action against the vessel, the skipper Grant Tuckett and shark-cage diving business White Shark Projects.
The matter is in court to establish whether they were responsible for the death of at least one passenger.
Sarah Tallman claims the defendants were negligent when they went out to sea.
The court heard that the couple had met on a blind date, that their relationship had progressed, they had had two engagements and had married in Mexico on November 15, 2007, five years after they met.
The couple had to be in Mexico four days ahead of the wedding to be eligible to be married - they needed witnesses and blood tests to be conducted beforehand.
Vows were exchanged and signatures and thumb prints taken.
She remembered walking down the aisle on the beach while guests blew bubbles, and described the moment as “perfect”. Mexico was becoming a common marriage destination for Americans, she said.
The pair were married in community of property.
After about four-and-a-half months of marriage they were planning their honeymoon when Chris Tallman and Lajeunesse came on holiday to Cape Town.
David Melunsky, for Sarah Tallman, asked her how she had responded to the suggestion that they were not legally married. She replied: “I was horrified at the thought of anyone even saying that.”
Michael Wragge SC, for the three defendants, later told Tallman that the legal team had not denied that the couple were married, but rather that they “did not know” the legal aspects of the marriage as it applied in the US.
The boat capsized near a reef made up of many submerged rocks.
The defendants say Chris Tallman entered into a contract, which included a “waiver, release and indemnity statement of understanding” and that an “express term of the contract” was that he had “acknowledged that cage diving, shark diving and boating are hazardous activities and accepted any and all risks of injury or death”.