Legal battles between the families of two Florida teens missing at sea, who disappeared nearly two years ago, continue with a wrongful death lawsuit announced Friday at the Palm Beach County Courthouse.
“This lawsuit is about truth, accountability and justice,” attorney Guy Rubin wrote in a prepared statement delivered on behalf of Pamela Cohen, mother of Perry Cohen, who vanished into the waters off Jupiter Inlet with friend Austin Stephanos during a fishing excursion on July 24, 2015. Monday marks two years since the 14-year-old boys’ disappearance and presumed deaths that made headlines worldwide.
The suit also names co-plaintiff John Eric Romano, personal representative of Perry’s estate. Defendants are Austin’s parents, Carly Black and Blu Stephanos, and grandfather, Richard Kuntz. Counts include negligent entrustment, breach of custodian and parental trust, negligent supervision and negligent undertaking of search.
It comes on the heels of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation that found Carly Black, Austin’s mother, showed an “egregious lack of judgement and failure to execute due care” when she allowed the boys to go offshore for a fishing excursion in a “minimally equipped” 19-foot 1978 SeaCraft knowing that the boat lacked basic safety and communications devices. An investigative report released last month added that Black knew that Perry’s parents forbade him to go offshore without an adult; waited more than two hours to notify his parents that the boys were missing; and never notified law enforcement or emergency agencies.
Rather than call for help, Blu Stephanos set out in his own boat to search for the boys – a move that “delayed the official duties of law enforcement and military assistance in the most critical moments of a search and rescue operation when every minute counts,” reads an early copy of the complaint obtained by PEOPLE. “By failing communicate the positions he had searched and where he believed the boys to have gone fishing, Blu Stephanos impeded the search and rescue, which caused the potential rescue of the boys to be greatly diminished.”
The complaint also reveals that before setting out that day, Austin talked with several members of his family about fishing for dolphin – known to inhabit offshore waters – and borrowed money for fuel from Kuntz.
Michael Pike, of Pike and Lustig in West Palm Beach and attorney for Austin’s father Blu said he was disappointed and refuted the allegations made by Mr. Rubin, saying his client didn’t know the boys were going out fishing on that tragic day and that his son was in the custody of his mother at the time, with whom Blu has been divorced from for many years.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Devan Stuart Lesley