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Two plead guilty in drowning case

When a 20-year-old fell overboard, a father and son tossed beer cans before calling for help

A father and son pleaded guilty in federal court to manslaughter charges stemming from the 2001 fatal drowning of a visiting Irish student who fell from a charter boat.

Joseph Shore, 65, captain and owner of the vessel Sea Genie II, and his son Cord, 39, who worked as a first mate, admitted during a plea hearing June 10 that their negligence and misconduct led to the death of 20-year-old Catherine Kinsella. The young woman was working on Cape Cod for the summer when she died July 22, 2001, after falling through a broken guardrail on the 58-foot Hyannis-based Sea Genie.

Prosecutors say that although the Shores searched on their own, they did not immediately call for help from rescuers, first dumping overboard beer cans and other signs of liquor illegally served aboard.

“Although nothing could make up for the unimaginable loss suffered by Catherine’s family and friends, I hope that they draw some comfort in knowing that law enforcement has done all in its power to ensure those responsible be held accountable,” U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who prosecuted the case, said in a press release.

The plea agreement follows a collaborative investigation by the Barnstable police, state police, Coast Guard, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice announcing the pleas, the Shores set out that night on a charter excursion, a so-called “booze cruise” which provided beer, wine and liquor. According to prosecutors, the Shores did not have a liquor license and most of the passengers who were served alcohol were underage. The vessel also exceeded its licensed capacity and there were inadequate life preservers for the more than 40 passengers, according to the prosecutors.

Sea Genie weighed anchor inside the Hyannis Port breakwater. Cord Shore, who does not have a captain’s license, was piloting the boat, according to prosecutors, who say he failed to monitor the radar safely and was not aware that the charter boat was drifting toward a moored sailboat. The boats collided and the Sea Genie’s starboard rail broke. Shortly thereafter, Kinsella fell overboard through the broken railing. The Shores reportedly undertook a search, circling in the 58-degree water as passengers reportedly heard Kinsella’s pleas for help. As the Sea Genie searched for Kinsella, Cord Shore urged passengers to dump their beer cans overboard, according to prosecutors.

The Shores did not report the incident for nearly 50 minutes.

The Coast Guard and Barnstable police found Kinsella shortly after they arrived, but she had no pulse and could not be resuscitated.

“One of the Coast Guard’s fundamental missions is to protect life at sea, a mission that we obviously take very seriously,” Commander Steve Stancliff of the 1st Coast Guard’s district legal office said in the same justice department release. “Those mariners who needlessly imperil the innocent lives they are entrusted to safeguard must be held accountable.”

The Shores could face up to 10 years imprisonment, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. But under the plea agreement, the Shores will likely receive a lesser sentence, and may even avoid jail time. A sentence hearing is slated for September.

The town in April 2002 upheld the revocation of the Shores’ use of the boat slip. Sea Genie II is currently in dry-dock in Rhode Island and is for sale.