Boater's family sues over death

SANDUSKY A grieving Berlin Heights couple is suing local auto dealer Phil Steinle Jr. over a Sandusk
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



A grieving Berlin Heights couple is suing local auto dealer Phil Steinle Jr. over a Sandusky Bay boating accident that killed their son less than two weeks ago.

Steinle piloted the 41-foot Formula boat involved in a collision June 15 with a 21-foot Sea Ray boat driven by Ben Miller, 21, authorities said.

Miller was thrown overboard and died from blunt force trauma to his chest and abdomen, a preliminary autopsy found. His body was found a day after the crash about 100 yards off Lyman Harbor. Toxicology and microbe tests on Miller are not complete yet, Erie County Coroner Brian Baxter said earlier this week.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft said a final accident report may not be complete until next week at the earliest.

Meanwhile his parents, Deborah and Stephen Miller, 5000 block Ohio 113, are asking for more than $25,000 and a jury trial.

They allege Steinle, 53, was negligent in operating a poorly lit vessel and failed to drive the boat at a safe speed, thus failing to avoid the collision, states the lawsuit filed Thursday in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

Authorities said Steinle's boat left the area after the crash and headed to Venetian Marina, where the boat sank.

Both boats were traveling at speeds greater than 20 mph at the time of impact, according to the ODNR.

In addition, U.S. Coast Guard officials inspected Steinle's boat minutes before the crash, where a light problem was corrected "on the spot."

A woman who answered the phone Friday at the Miller home said they were "not talking to anyone" and hung the phone up.

The couple's attorney, Charles M. Murray of Sandusky, did not return a call for comment Friday. His office voice mail said was out for the day.

"The conduct constituted a conscious disregard for the safety and rights of others," the Millers state in the lawsuit. They claim their son was a passenger on the boat, contradicting what officials have said.

In addition, Steinle failed to maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing, the lawsuit states.

Steinle did not return calls for comment.

"All family members (of Miller) have suffered great mental anguish due to his death," according to the lawsuit.