Duck boat trial halted, possible settlement talks

May 8, 2012 4:18:30 PM PDT
The judge presiding over the civil trial concerning the fatal duck boat accident on the Delaware River has halted the trial and ordered both parties to try and reach a settlement.

Attorneys involved in this case say that is not an unusual move in a federal civil trial, especially one without a jury.

Before testimony ended today, one of the survivors of the fatal duck boat collision testified about what happened at the moment of impact.

RELATED: Listen to an extended excerpt of Kevin Grace's testimony

Kevin Grace of Illinois was a passenger on the duck boat on July 7th, 2010.

In testimony this morning, he described what happened onboard the moment the doomed vessel was pushed in the dark Delaware River by an unmanned barge.

"The initial impact came with loud screams and cries from the rest of the crew, people on the boat," Grace said.

As water was rushing up the aisle of the duck boat, Grace described trying to get a life jacket on his daughter.

"The metal is screeching and the boat is twisting and turning?sheer chaos, sheer panic, just the most horrific thing I could ever imagine happening," Grace recalled.

Yesterday, at the start of the trial, video was played showing 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner throwing her life vest to a deckhand moments before impact.

That deckhand, Kyle Burkhart, dived overboard seconds before the collision that sent more than 30 passengers into the water and killed Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem.

Their families are suing the tug operator, K-Sea Transportation, and duck boat operator, Ride the Ducks, claiming they are liable in the accident.

The families of the young tourists who died traveled from Hungary to testify and to watch the proceedings.

This trial was supposed to take longer than a month. At this point, it's on hold indefinitely.

It's possible testimony will resume if they two sides cannot reach a settlement, but at this point there is no set time or day for that to happen.