24 December 2012

Liberia: Court Decides Cadets' Death Soon

Did the four maritime cadets die while training under the supervision of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) or did they die on their own?

The Civil Law Court in Monrovia is expected to deliver a ruling on January 9, 2013, on this question which has become a bone of contention between family members of the deceased and LMA officials.

Legal practitioners familiar with the case told our reporter Friday the ruling on the motion for summary judgment was slated to be delivered last week but was postponed to January 9.

The case grew out of the death of cadets J. Eddie Wilson, George K. Reed, Patrick m. Ansumana and Henry D. Browne last September when they got drowned while swimming on high seas.

Circumstances of their death have been shrouded in controversy with LMA and family members of the deceased conflicting accounts of the incident.

LMA refused to take responsibility for the death of the cadets, contending that they died on their own because they had signed waivers discharging the Authority of any liabilities for their death before embarking on swimming.

But lawyers for family members of the deceased cited negligence on the part of LMA for the demise of the cadets, saying the marines drowned on September 27, 2012 while engaged in "an inherently dangerous activity in rough sea waters during adverse weather conditions."

The lawyers cite the Labour Practices Laws of Liberia which recognize that sn employee who suffers an injury or diseases as a consequence of his employment shall be entitled to compensation during his disability.

Family members had maintained that LMA was responsible because the cadets were carrying out routine training when they died on high seas under the supervision of LMA.

According to a family spokesman Charleson Ansumana, LAM's account of the tragedy was "false and misleading" as the marines were undergoing training "without floaters, lifeguard jackets and other necessary safety equipment."

The marines were buried on October after funeral rites at the Trinity Cathedral on Broad Street. Prior to the burial, reports suggested that family members had rejected $200,000 reportedly offered by LMA as compensation for the death of the maritime cadets.

Media reports quoted family sources as saying that no contribution ever came from the LMA for the funeral but other reports attributed to the Green Advocates, which formerly represented the legal interest of the cadets, suggested that family members had rejected the contributions offered by LMA.

It was reported that the family members wanted the LMA to take responsibility for the deaths and compensation.

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