SAN FRANCISCO -- A former San Francisco Giants executive whose daughter was among five people killed in an April boat crash says errors by the vessel's captain caused the tragedy off the Farallon Islands, according to a lawsuit against the boat owner.
Captain Alan Cahill allegedly "cut corners" when he sailed the 38-foot Low Speed Chase into a dangerous area that other boats avoided during Full Crew Farallones Race. That decision led to waves flipping the boat and killing Alexis Busch and four others, her father Corey Busch wrote in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.
The suit targets boat owner James Bradford, who was one of three survivors.
The crash was one of the worst yacht racing accidents in the Bay Area in decades and marked the only fatalities in the history of the annual race that was first held in 1907.
Similar to the lawsuit, a report by a national governing body for sailing concluded the April 14 crash was the result of the boat's path through a shallow stretch of water near the islands. The July 31 probe from US Sailing says experts believe the decision on the boat's course was not made "with an understanding of the risks." Cahill, 36, of Tiburon, didn't survive the crash.
Low Speed Chase was one of 49 boats that left from the St. Francis Yacht Club to make the journey around the uninhabited islands that sit about 27 miles west of San Francisco, the report says. As the Chase started to
round the islands, it passed over an underwater ledge that some of the other boats were purposely sailing around. The ledge creates conditions where waves can grow to 30 feet in height, the suit says.
Low Speed Chase was flipped and tossed onto the island by waves, which dumped all but one crew member into the water.
Besides Bradford, Bryan Chong, 38, and Nick Vos, 26, survived. But Marc Kasanin, 46, of Belvedere; Elmer Morrissey, 32, of Ireland; Jordan Fromm, 25, of Ross; Busch, 26, of Larkspur were among the dead. The bodies of Cahill and Busch were never recovered, the report says.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Bradford declined to discuss the suit, saying, "It's a private issue between me and the survivors."
"I almost lost my life too," he said, adding that his friends died. "It was horrible, even to survive."
Bradford said he has not faced criminal charges in connection with the crash.
While the US Sailing report focuses on the boat's course, it also says different life jackets could also have saved lives. Specifically, the report noted, higher buoyancy jackets that inflate automatically might have helped. The experts also said thigh straps to keep the jackets secure could have improved survival chances.
However, in the process of their investigation the experts learned that other racers didn't comply with minimum safety equipment standards.
"It is not clear whether these skippers were unaware of the requirements or simply ignored them," the report says.
In the suit, Busch's family doesn't list a dollar amount, but they're seeking compensation for funeral expenses as well as punitive damages, which are intended to punish bad behavior, from Bradford. Michael Kelly, an attorney for the Busch family, said that because no criminal action has been taken against the boat owner, the family wants to hold him accountable for an avoidable tragedy.
"It's become clear to them that this shouldn't have happened," he said in interview.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport. ___