Families sue feds, builders after Ryan's Commander deaths

The survivors of two brothers who died in the ryan's Commander shipwreck off a Newfoundland cape in 2004 hope two new lawsuits will help prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

Thefamilies of two brothers who died in a shipwreck off a Newfoundland capetwo years agohope two new lawsuits will help prevent a similar incident.

Joe and Dave Ryan died when their vessel, the Ryan's Commander, capsized off Spillar's Cove near Cape Bonavista on Sept. 19, 2004, a few months after it cleared sea trials and inspections. The vessel was shattered as waves threw it against rocks.

Two lawsuits in Newfoundland Supreme Court allege that Transport Canada failed to enforce safety regulations, and that two private companies that built the vessel failed in their duties to ensure the Ryan's Commander was safe.

"There [were]just enough loopholes that a 65-footer just sailed right through it, and a $1.8-million coffin happened," said Johanna Ryan Guy, a sister of the Ryan brothers.

"It got built, and it got passed, and that's what makes me so passionately upset about this."

Four crew members were rescued from the wreckage.

The lawsuits were registered by the Ryan brothers' estates and families. Named as plaintiffs are the attorney general of Canada, Marine Services International Ltd. and Universal Marine Ltd.

The suits claim that the design of the Ryan's Commander— a shrimp and crab vessel— was unstable, unsafe and untrustworthy.

Statements of defence have not yet been filed. The allegations have not been proven in court.

One of the suits asks for $1.4 million to cover the loss of the vessel. The suits also ask for unspecified damages to account for the loss to the families.

The suits allege the Transport Canada neglected to enforce key Canada Shipping Act regulations by failing to provide the crew with enough training.

The suits also claim that the boat's builders failed to teach the crew how the anti-roll tanks worked, and that an inclining experiment was not conducted "to ensure that the stability of the vessel was sufficient, particularly as this was a vessel of novel arrangement, design and construction."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has not yet completed its investigation into the loss of the Ryan's Commander.