Settlement reached in drowning rescue suit in NH

Posted April 26, 2012, at 12:26 p.m.
Last modified April 26, 2012, at 3:51 p.m.

NEWPORT, N.H. — The children of a Vermont woman who drowned while being transported by a New Hampshire-based airboat rescue squad have reached a settlement in their lawsuit against the squad, the boat’s manufacturer and the town of Springfield, Vt.

Sullivan County court officials confirmed Thursday they received notice the case was settled from the attorneys involved. The settlement resolves five years of litigation over the August 2006 death of 64-year-old Virginia Yates of Rockingham, Vt.

The case was scheduled to go on trial this month.

Yates was stepping off a boat on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River when she slipped and hit her head and injured an ankle.

The Cornish Rescue Squad responded with an airboat to transport her across the river to a waiting ambulance. But the flat-bottomed boat soon took on water and sank, drowning Yates, who was strapped to a gurney secured to the boat’s hull.

It took rescuers and hour to reach and recover her body.

Sullivan Country Attorney Marc Hathaway investigated the sinking and concluded there were no grounds for criminal charges.

Attorneys involved in the case declined to discuss the settlement terms, saying confidentiality is a condition of the settlement.

Attorney Mark Attorri, who represents the Cornish Rescue Squad, said the squad is pleased for everyone involved that the matter is closed.

“Above all, the squad is pleased the Yates family can finally have some closure on this tragedy,” Attorri said.

The squad, composed entirely of citizen volunteers, was called in by the Springfield fire department to help assist in transporting Yates because the boat dock she was on was at the base of a steep hill.

Maine Yankee Airboats Inc. of Sebago, Maine — manufacturer of the airboat — reached a separate settlement with Yates’ three children.

Attorney Jeffrey Osburn, who represents the Yates family, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The settlement was first reported by the Valley News.

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