Friday, October 13, 2006
A federal jury today convicted a ship Captain of criminal misconduct in a deadly docks crane collapse on Mobile's waterfront. Wolfgang Schroder, 58, was convicted in U.S. District Court of misconduct in the March 2 accident at the Alabama State Docks container facility. At sentencing in February, Schroder, a German native who lives in Ireland, could get up to 10 years in prison. He was arrested in April on a criminal complaint by the U.S. Coast Guard in Houston. His ship, ZIM Mexico III, struck a 196-foot-high skycrane, which toppled, killing a contract electrician, Shawn Jacobs, 46, who was working on the crane.
ZIM Mexico IIIThe 534-foot-long ship was turning in the river when its bow struck the crane, which was not in use at the time. Prosecutors contended that Schroder was responsible for the collision because he ignored concerns about a steering mechanism, the bow thruster, which had lost power on two previous occasions. Schroder's defense team disputes that characterization. "We hope that this verdict does two things — that it provides some measure of comfort to the family, and we hope that it increases safety at the Port of Mobile," the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy, told reporters. Schroder's lawyers maintain that the collision was a tragic but unavoidable accident and defense attorney Irwin Schwartz vowed to continue the legal fight on Schroder's behalf. Schwartz said he was disappointed in the verdict. "But this is only an intermediary step in the process," he said. For Jacob's relatives, the verdict brought some relief. "We feel it's a just verdict," said Sheryl Everett, Jacobs' sister. "It certainly doesn't bring Shawn back at all. Everything is cliché, but it brings some measure of accountability, some measure of peace," the victim's brother, Steve Jacobs added.