Louisiana-based dredging firm C.F. Bean LLC pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in the September 2012 boating death of Biloxi Mississippi businessman Mark Barhanovich and was fined the maximum amount allowed: $500000. The company must also pay a special assessment of $400 and will be on probation for five years.
The sentence was imposed October 28 in Biloxi by Chief U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden. The amount of the fine was determined by the statute under which the company pled guilty commonly known as the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act.
Barhanovich died near the eastern tip of Deer Island after his 23-foot fishing vessel struck an object that caused the outboard motor to break free from the stern. The motor flipped into the boat and its propeller struck him in the back according to a report from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Barhanovich’s widow and son filed a suit against Bean and Archer Western Contractors the contractor for the $38 million restoration project in 2013. The family reportedly reached a settlement with Bean for an undisclosed amount shortly before criminal charges were filed October 16.
The dredging operation near Deer Island was part of a port restoration project at the Mississippi State Port at Gulfport which involved dredging and transporting dredged materials to a site at Deer Island. The dredge barge Bean 20 was situated near Deer Island and received dredged material that was then pumped to the island through a dredge pipeline.
The company pled guilty to failing to properly mark the submerged pipeline with lights and markings. One report said the markings were taken down in response to a hurricane warning but not replaced in a timely fashion. Investigation revealed numerous other complaints by boaters of striking the pipeline before Barhanovich’s accident.
U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis said “Boaters depend on dredging companies to properly follow rules for marking their dredge operations so that mariners can avoid hazards that can prove highly dangerous or even fatal as was the sad situation here. It is hard to understand how an experienced maritime business like this could have failed in its duty at such a high cost.”
Davis praised the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for their investigative work in the case.