Matthew Devlin: Apology, regret from tug mate

Devlin and his wife, Corinne, left the federal courthouse yesterday for the final time before he reports for prison Jan. 5.

The tug operator involved in the deadly duck boat crash on the Delaware River that killed two people was sentenced yesterday to one year and one day in prison.

Matthew Devlin, 35, of Catskill, N.Y., pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to misconduct of a ship operator causing death. Devlin admitted that he violated company policy by being on the phone and a laptop computer for about an hour leading up to the July 7, 2010, crash dealing with an emergency involving his young son’s surgery.

U.S. District Court Judge Legrome Davis heard more than three hours of emotional testimony, including video segments from the parents of slain Hungarian tourists Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, Devlin and his wife. In handing down the sentence, Davis acknowledged that it was a hard case with “permanent sadness” on both sides, but noted the need to send a message to other operators about the dangers of distracted driving.

“You’re pushing a barge down the river that’s almost the size of a football field. Very few people are entrusted with that responsibility … It’s fair for us as a society to expect them to do their job,” Davis said.

Prosecutors said they believe the sentence will deter similar behavior.

“This is very important that operators of mass transportation know that you can’t be using all these wonderful electronic devices we have while they’re carrying out their duties,” said Assistant U.S.
Attorney Robert Zauzmer. “It’s a significant problem that we’ve seen in other accidents, and this sentence today sends a very clear message that there are consequences to be paid.”

One action that really cost him

Davis chided Devlin for not asking for relief, using his phone and the laptop, operating from the lower wheelhouse where he had reduced visibility, but he considered Devlin’s decision to turn down the radios most egregious.

“That’s a choice that was so fundamentally in conflict with what you had been trained to do. If you hadn’t done that you wouldn’t be here,” Davis said.


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