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$4.3M awarded in Katrina verdict

A crewman on a tugboat caught in Hurricane Katrina won a $4.3 million judgment against his former employer, claiming the ordeal left him suicidal and with post-traumatic stress disorder, which destroyed his marriage and, though he once enjoyed pleasure boating, gave him a fear of the water, the Associated Press reports.

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Tyree Webb, 53, of Clarksville, Tenn., a crewman on the 170-foot tug Anita M., says his employer, Teco Barge Line Inc., of Metropolis, Tenn., ordered him and other crewmembers to ride out Katrina’s 145-mph winds on the Mississippi River 55 miles south of New Orleans instead of seeking safe harbor upriver. The AP reported the company testified it didn’t think the August 2005 hurricane was life-threatening. Katrina left 1,600 dead.

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Anita M.’s crewmembers testified that winds kept spinning the tug around while pushing it a quarter-mile upriver until it ran aground. They were so scared they would die that they called their families and said goodbye, according to the AP.

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U.S. District Judge David Herndon ruled that the Anita M. was not designed or equipped to safeguard the crew from a hurricane.

Webb testified that he has struggled with flashbacks, hyperarousal, insomnia, agitation and outbursts of rage, the AP says in its report on the East Saint Louis, Ill., U.S. District Court decision.