Dockworker sues ship owner for $5.2 million after coal pier collision

A CSX Transportation dockworker who says he suffered disabling injuries last August when a tanker collided with a Curtis Bay pier has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the shipping company.

David Rienas of Abingdon was atop a coal-loading machine on the Bayside Coal Pier when the Wawasan Ruby struck, "causing it to be dragged down the pier with great force," according to the suit, filed Friday.

Rienas, 42, is asking the court for $5.2 million as compensation for back, neck and rib injuries that have kept him from working and have, he says, caused him permanent injuries "including mental anguish, fright and emotional distress and disfigurement."

The suit alleged the crew of Wawasan Ruby, owned by Panama-based Trio Happiness S.A., was guilty of incompetence, speeding and failing to maintain a lookout or use radar. Rienas also expects to file a claim against the vessel for compensation under maritime law, the suit said.

Neither Rienas nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday.

The accident happened Aug. 25 about 12:40 p.m. as the 479-foot tanker made the turn from the mouth of the Patapsco River on its way to the Bitumar Asphalt Dock.

The Coast Guard has not completed its investigation.

In a notice to its customers, Inchcape Shipping Services, a vessel agent and freight forwarder, said the ship "missed the channel on the turn."

The collision caused up to $22 million in damage and idled the coal pier for nearly two months.

CSX Transportation Inc. accused Trio Happiness of operating an "unseaworthy, unportworthy and unfit" vessel and went to court to stop the ship from leaving Baltimore. A federal judge allowed the Wawasan Ruby to continue to its next port only after its owner provided a letter of guarantee for payment should CSX win a judgment.

In a court filing, Trio Happiness previously said that the ship, built in 2010, was under the control of a member of the Association of Maryland Pilots, an independent state association that docks ships in the harbor. Geoffrey S. Tobias, an attorney for Trio Happiness, declined to comment on the case Monday evening.

A case status report by both sides must be submitted to U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett by Friday.

Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this report.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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