COQUILLE - The state argued Tuesday that insurers of the New Carissa created a "do-nothing program" to avoid removing the wrecked ship's stern from the Oregon coast so they could save $3 million, but a defense attorney countered there was no plot and no fault on the part of the ship's crew in the 1999 grounding.
Following final arguments by the state and the ship's owners, Coos County Circuit Court Judge Richard Barron recessed court until this morning, when the jury will begin deliberating the state's lawsuit seeking an order to remove the wreckage or pay as much as $340 million in damages.
Reviewing evidence from the monthlong trial, William Wheatley, a special assistant attorney general for Oregon, told the jury that John Trew, a manager of insurer Tindall, Riley Marine, disregarded the advice of his salvage consultant to hire Titan Marine, which has a track record of raising grounded ships from the pounding surf, for $15 million.
Instead, Trew hired Donjon/Devine Joint Venture, which offered to salvage the New Carissa for $10 million but ultimately failed. The contract called for no payment if the wreckage was not removed.
Wheatley said Trew later offered to forgive a loan of $5.1 million to Donjon, plus pay $2 million extra, if the salvage company would try to persuade the state to drop its demands to remove the wreckage mired in the sand of the North Spit outside Coos Bay.
"He figures out how to turn a loss to a better situation for him," Wheatley said of Trew. "If he can convince the state to do nothing, he can come out ahead $3 million."
Defense attorney Roman M. Silberfeld, representing the ship's owners, denied the allegations of the state's lawsuit, but did not go into specifics. The ship was owned by Green Atlas S.A. of Panama and operated by TMM Co. of Japan. Both companies are owned by Taiheiyo Kaiun Co. of Japan.