By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE hearing of a mother’s $35,000 claim against the government for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s alleged culpability for a boating accident that resulted in her son’s death two years ago – has been set for 2020.
Justice Ian Winder set a date of January 17, 2020 to hear Dale Turnquest’s action concerning the $35,800 in special damages she is seeking over of the RBDF’s alleged negligence that resulted in Christopher Turnquest’s death in October 2016.
At the start of Friday’s case management hearing on the matter, Nicholas Mitchell, Mrs Turnquest’s attorney, said while he appreciates the court’s calendar being entirely booked until 2020, the present matter is one of “tremendous public importance and interest”.
Mr Mitchell asked the court if the matter could be given the earliest possible dates to be heard. He also informed the court, in agreement with Crown attorney Kenny Thompson, that he expects the trial to last approximately two days.
Justice Winder subsequently indicated that he would not be able to find two days to hear the matter before 2020, and fixed the trial date in accordance with his calendar.
However, Justice Winder set a subsequent case management hearing date of February 19, 2019. At that time, he indicated that the court will see if anything has changed in terms of its calendar and if so, then the hearing could be moved up to be heard on earlier dates.
According to a Writ filed recently on Mrs Turnquest’s behalf, on or about October 1, 2016, Mr Turnquest was a passenger of a 13-foot vessel travelling in waters opposite the Bay Street marina, when a RBDF vessel RB-D1, driven and/or operated by Able Seaman Claude Lesbott and/or Marine Seaman Kendrick Edgecombe, navigated into the path of and ultimately collided with the vessel Mr Turnquest was on.
Mr Turnquest suffered blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso as a result of the accident. He also sustained a laceration to his frontal scalp; a depressed frontal bone and calvarium fracture; an Atlanto (first cervical certebra)—occipital dislocation with fracture; and a fractured fourth thoracic vertebra.
As a result of the accident and the consequent injuries, Mr Turnquest died about two days later on October 3. In court on Friday, Mr Mitchell said Mr Turnquest was found in an “almost unidentifiable condition”.
In May, a jury ruled that Mr Turnquest’s death was “accidental” and not the result of negligence by the RBDF officers.
However, the Writ asserts that the RBDF officers were negligent in that they failed to keep any or proper look-out; failed to see the vessel in which the deceased was onboard in time or at all; failed adequately or at all to heed or act upon the presence, path, position and approach the vessel in which the deceased was travelling; emerged when it was unsafe to do so by reason of the presence, path, position and approach of the vessel in which the deceased was travelling; and drove into the path of and collided with the vessel in which the deceased was onboard.
The Writ further asserts that the RBDF officers failed to take any, or any adequate care and attention to where they were going; failed to take any or any adequate care for the safety of the deceased; failed to stop, slow down, brake, swerve or otherwise steer or control the vessel so as to avoid colliding with the vessel in which the deceased was travelling; and exposed the deceased to a “foreseeable risk of injury and/or demise”.
The Writ further asserts that in all the circumstances, the RBDF vessel in question was travelling too fast.
As such, Mrs Turnquest is seeking $35,800 in special damages. Of that sum, $17,000 is sought to cover Mr Turnquest’s funeral and burial expenses; another $10,000 to cover the legal fees of the Coroner’s inquest into his death—which found that the crash was accidental; and another $8,800 to cover loss of dependency.
Mrs Turnquest is also seeking damages on behalf of her son’s estate; damages on behalf of her son and/or persons entitled under the Fatal Accidents Act and/or the Survival of Action Act; general damages for loss of expectation of life; damages for loss of future earnings (lost years); damages for bereavement; interest; costs and such further and/or other relief that the Court deems just and necessary.
Mrs Turnquest is to make the claim in her capacity as Administratrix of her son’s estate. The claim is also brought on behalf of Mr Turnquest’s three younger sisters.
The Office of the Attorney General is listed as the sole defendant in the matter, and is joined pursuant to section 12 of the Crown Proceedings Act for the actions of RBDF Able Seaman Lesbott and/or Marine Seaman Edgecombe, for which the Crown is “vicariously liable”.
In response to the allegations made in the Writ, the Crown denied navigating into the path of the vessel Mr Turnquest was on. The Crown further denied that the collision and alleged “negligence” of the two RBDF officers resulted in Mr Turnquest’s death, and put Mrs Turnquest to “strict proof” on that claim.
The Crown further charges that Marine Seaman Edgecombe did act as a look-out on the date in question, conducting watch from portside.
The Crown explained that the accident happened two days before Hurricane Matthew hit New Providence, and that the two RBDF officers were thus unable to see the vessel Mr Turnquest was on “because of heavy rainfall and darkness” that filled the Nassau harbour.
Additionally, the Crown asserts that the vessel Mr Turnquest was on had no navigational or operational lights on at the time.
The Crown claims that as the RBDF vessel turned to leave the channel in the vicinity of the Bay Street Marina on approach to the Harbour Patrol Unit, it collided with an “unknown object”.
It maintained that at the time of the collision, the RBDF vessel was going at a “safe speed” which is “moderate speed for the size of the vessel”, and “not fast”.
Nonetheless, the Crown says upon colliding with the unknown object, the RBDF officers immediately reduced the vessel’s revolutions per minute (RPM) and commenced an investigation.
Upon doing so, the RBDF officers saw a small, capsized vessel and immediately search and found Mr Turnquest and his cousin in the water.
The Crown thus asserts that Mr Turnquest “contributed to the injuries he sustained”. The Crown further asserts that there was no negligence by the RBDF officers, and denied the alleged injury, loss or damage as alleged by Mrs Turnquest and put her to “strict proof” on that point.
The Crown further denied that any pain and injury Mr Turnquest suffered was the result of the negligence of the RBDF officers, and likewise put Mrs Turnquest to strict proof on that claim.