Lawyer: Client won’t be charged in fatal boat collision

Posted May 31, 2011, at 3:39 p.m.

WINTER HARBOR, Maine — A lobsterman who was involved in a boat collision last summer that killed another local fisherman will not be prosecuted in connection with the incident, according to his attorney.

The Coast Guard investigated the collision, which happened June 30 off Pond Island, in the eastern mouth of Frenchman Bay. Frank Jordan, 71, died when his boat Linda Diane was struck broadside by the Master Simon and then sank.

Phil Torrey, 38, captain of the Master Simon, faced the possibility of being charged after acknowledging that he was sitting down on his boat and did not see the Linda Diane until his boat rammed it. Weather conditions were sunny with clear visibility when the accident occurred.

According to autopsy results from the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office, Jordan died as a result of drowning due to head trauma.

Torrey was uninjured in the accident, as were two sternmen, one on each of the two vessels involved in the collision.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently declined to comment about the case, but Torrey’s lawyer confirmed last week that he and his client have received official word that Torrey will not be charged.

Attorney David Bate of Bangor said that Jordan’s boat was supposed to yield to Torrey’s boat, because the Master Simon was approaching on the starboard — or right — side. When two boats are converging, whichever is to the port, or left, of the other must give way, Bate said.

He said he believes this factored into the decision by prosecutors not to charge his client.

“I think that is one of the stronger issues in the case,” Bate said. “I think it was a very careful balancing of several issues.”

Bate said he thinks the U.S. Attorney’s Office also took into consideration the strain such prosecutions can have on the families of victims when it decided not to charge Torrey.

The day after the collision, Torrey recounted during an interview how the accident had occurred. He said that a few minutes before the collision, he had finished hauling traps and was headed back to Winter Harbor when he saw Jordan’s boat a mile or so off to his port side.

Torrey said during the interview that Master Simon was traveling at about 20 knots with its bow riding high when he sat down to eat a sandwich. The next thing he knew, he said, his boat had rammed into the starboard side of the Linda Diane, cutting it in two before it sank.

Bate said last week that Torrey is remorseful that Jordan died in the collision. The two men, though not friends, were friendly with one another, according to area residents.

Bate said that before the accident, when Jordan was having health problems, Torrey had helped haul Jordan’s traps to make sure they did not sit too long. After Jordan died, Torrey again helped haul Jordan’s gear out of the water, he added.

“Phil was devastated by this,” Bate said.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Torrey and members of Jordan’s family by phone were unsuccessful. One of Jordan’s sons, Greg Jordan, recently declined to comment about the decision not to file criminal charges against Torrey.

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