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Dock explosion civil trial gets under way



Staff Writer


A Lincoln County civil trial may take weeks to reach a settlement, court officials said.

The ongoing lawsuit is between the parents of a Denver teen who was killed in a 2008 yacht explosion and Petroleum Equipment & Services, Inc., the company who installed the gas pumps at Westport Marina in Denver, where the fatal incident occurred, court documents showed.

Nate Coppick, 19, died after an 80-foot yacht exploded at the marina nearly five years ago while he was refueling the watercraft, the Times-News previously reported.

Five months following the deadly blast, the victim’s parents filed a lawsuit against company owner and yacht captain, Cliff Champion, as well as marina owner, Lowery Hobbs.

However, according to various news media outlets, both defending parties have since settled out of court.

While Coppick typically served as a deckhand at Westport, he was at the marina for different duties the day of the explosion. Champion had hired him as a yacht crew member while the vessel escorted a group of local high school students on a tour of Lake Norman, investigators told the Times-News.

In the complaint, the plaintiff stated a generator or A/C unit on the yacht had been left on during refueling, and together with leaked fuel that collected under a nearby dock and gas vapors, contributed to the fiery blast.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission initially led the investigation, which after finding no criminal wrongdoing in the incident, handed the case over to the Lincoln County Fire Marshal’s Office, according to an archived Times-News article.

The N.C. Department of Labor division additionally launched an investigation after it was believed Westport had violated the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that requires marine fuel pump nozzles to be both automatic-closing and without a hold-open latch.

In 2011, the state Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) upheld the state Department of Labor’s citation against the marina, court documents stated.

The cause of the blast remains a mystery, fire officials said.

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