A crabber working in the Alaska Bering Sea aboard the TIME BANDIT (the vessel made famous by the popular Discovery Channel reality series “Deadliest Catch”), was awarded $1.35 million by a Seattle jury for injuries sustained in a fireworks related explosion aboard the vessel.
According to court documents, David Zielinski suffered a shattered right hand and forearm when the explosive he was attempting to launch detonated prematurely. According to his attorney, Zielinski had been instructed by his employer to launch the custom-made explosive. Following the incident, Zielinski had to be airlifted from the ship to a medical clinic in Alaska, then flown to Seattle for surgery on his hand and arm. Since the accident, he has undergone several reconstructive surgeries, however the injury has put an end to his career as a commercial crabber.
Johnathan Hillstrand, one of the owners of the TIME BANDIT, admitted that he had suggested Zielinski claim the injuries were sustained while crabbing rather than from an explosive device. In a declaration, Johnathan Hillstrand stated that his brother Andy Hillstrand talked him out of the tactic.
“I suggested that perhaps we could claim that Dave was injured by a crab pot or the pot launcher crushing his arm, instead of saying that a firework exploded in his hand,” Johnathan Hillstrand said in a sworn statement. “I made this suggestion because I wanted to help Dave. I wanted to make sure that Dave’s medical expenses would be covered, and I thought that by stating that Dave was injured in traditional fishing activities we could make it more likely that our insurance would cover Dave’s injury.”
The jury deliberated for one week before determining that $2.7 million in compensation would be awarded to Zielinski for injuries sustained aboard the TIME BANDIT. The jury cut that award in half, down to $1.35 million to penalize Zielinski for his part in the firework shenanigans. The Honorable Jeffrey Ramsdell, King County Superior Court judge, presided over the trial, which will likely be appealed by both sides.