Tall ship lawsuit enters final stages

The Halifax sinking of a tall ship during Hurricane Juan was "an inevitable accident," a lawyer said during closing arguments in a lawsuit against the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust.

Larinda sank in Halifax harbour during hurricane 7 years ago

The Halifax harbour sinking of tall ship Larinda during Hurricane Juan was "an inevitable accident," the plaintiff's lawyer said Friday during closing arguments in a lawsuit against the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust.

The family that owned the Larinda, which sank seven years ago, is suing the non-profit Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, which looks after the HMCS Sackville, for nearly $1 million in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The lawyer representing the trust is asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

In September 2003, the threat of Hurricane Juan forced the Larinda into Halifax harbour, where she berthed beside the HMCS Sackville, one of more than 120 corvettes built in Canada during the Second World War. 

The two ships were tethered when the mooring lines of the Corvette snapped in sustained winds of around 90 knots. The Sackville rammed the Larinda, which sank to the bottom of the harbour and was filled with raw sewage. 

Jean-Francois Bilodeau, the lawyer for the trust, said it was an accident that could not have been foreseen.

"Sackville did nothing wrong. Their preparation was as good as any professional seamen could do, and the storm, which was much larger and stronger than anticipated, overwhelmed those preparations," he said.

Bilodeau called the sinking "an inevitable accident."

In 90 minutes in the early morning of Sept. 29, 2003, the hurricane moved through the province, killing two people, smashing buildings and leaving about 300,000 homes and businesses without power.

The lawyer for the Cape Cod family who owned the Larinda called the sinking "an accident waiting to happen." He argued the Corvette should have put in additional mooring lines.

Larinda, a replica of a 1767 U.S. schooner, took Americans Larry Mahan and his wife, Linda, 30 years to build.

The Larinda was raised from the harbour floor after the storm but the Mahans had to give up the ship because they couldn't afford to fix it. The insurance company sold it for salvage for $28,888.

Larry Mahan, 63, took his own life in the summer of 2005. He was depressed following the loss of his boat and a car accident in which a cyclist was killed.

Linda Mahan and their children were in court Friday. They declined to be interviewed.

The former owners say the Larinda was worth $815,000 US and are seeking that amount, although the Larinda was insured for less than one-third of that. They also want to be paid the $110,000 that it cost to raise the ship.