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Family Of Drowned Chief Engineer On Tuna Seiner Sues Dongwon United States, June 18, 13

Dongwon Industries, that also owns the StarKist Tuna brand, is being sued in the U.S. District Court of Guam by the family of a chief engineer who drowned aboard one of the company’s tuna purse seiners.

It’s the second lawsuit related to deaths on the ship in 2010.

According to the family’s complaint, Dongwon Industries, the parent company of StarKist Tuna, allowed the purse seiner Majestic Blue to set sail from Guam in May 2010, despite shoddy repair work in a China shipyard and an inexperienced mostly Korean crew that was unable to communicate with the boat’s American captain.

The complaint states chief engineer Chang Cheol Yang and captain David Hill drowned after the ship started to take on water in calm seas and good weather on June 14, 2010, during a tuna-fishing expedition.

Twenty-two other crew members were rescued, but Yang and Hill were never found, despite a search by the U.S. Coast Guard and other Dongwon vessels, the complaint states.

Hill's widow, Amy Hill, sued the ship’s owners in Guam’s federal court in October 2010. The case continues, and witness testimony still is being gathered.

According to crew testimony in the Hill case, the ship started to sink around noon that day, and the instruction given was to abandon ship.

Most of the crew climbed into a skiff, observer Ellis Talea testified, but the captain was reluctant to leave and moved back and forth from the bridge to the engine room, with Yang following him.

“Everyone were hysterically shouting for both men to get off the (fishing vessel) and get into the skiffboat, but as they came out of the bridge house and went into the engine room for the second or third time, the (fishing vessel) ... tilted into its port side and sunk within ten seconds or less,” Talea testified.

He said the skiff stayed in the area and started to see debris surface, but there was no sign of the two missing men. The crew was rescued about four or five hours later.

Yang lived in Peru before joining the crew in China, the complaint states. His family still lives in Peru.

The complaint, filed Tuesday, states the crew was predominantly Korean, but with an American captain to comply with U.S. crewing requirements.

It states Dongwon was operating the purse seiner through Majestic Blue Fisheries, a subsidiary Dongwon created in Delaware after it acquired StarKist in 2008. The ship itself was operated out of Guam, the complaint states, where Dongwon has an office.

The complaint alleges that communication problems and crew inexperience affected the captain’s ability to properly radio the ship’s location to the company. It also alleged frequent insubordination by the crew.

It alleges that the ship’s former captain, who was present during repair work in a China shipyard, was unhappy with the quality of work and believed it was rushed by the company in order to save money. He reportedly questioned whether the ship would pass a Coast Guard inspection.

Yang’s family, represented by the Dooley, Roberts and Fowler law firm, is suing Dongwon for damages, legal fees and court costs.