Feds: Lobster captain who lost 2 at sea was drinking, high

AP News
Posted: Dec 19, 2016 5:18 PM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine lobster boat owner had been drinking and using marijuana and oxycodone before he lost two crew members during a 2014 fishing trip, federal prosecutors said Monday in charging him with seaman's manslaughter.

Twenty-eight-year-old Christopher Hutchinson, of Cushing, Maine, was arrested and charged by indictment. A call to his defense attorney, Jeffrey Langholtz, was not immediately returned.

Hutchinson was owner and captain of the 45-foot boat, No Limits, which flipped in heavy waves several miles west of Matinicus after hauling in lobster traps for several hours on Nov. 1, 2014.

Crew members Tomas Hammond, 26, of St. George, and Tyler Sawyer, 15, of Waldoboro, died in the sinking. Hutchinson was later spotted floating on a raft and rescued.

"The indictment alleges that his negligent and unsafe operation of the boat in forecasted dangerous weather and sea conditions and after using controlled substances and alcohol caused the loss of life," the U.S. attorney's office in Portland said.

In July 2015, a justice ruled that $170,500 in damage stemming from the deaths would go to Michelle Miete, who is the personal representative of Tomas Hammond's estate, the Portland Press Herald reported . The remaining $139,500 of a settlement fund would go to Lisa Chickering and Travis Sawyer, the parents of Tyler Sawyer.

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Seaman's manslaughter is a federal crime used to hold ships' officers accountable for actions that result in deaths. Hutchinson faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.