POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 22, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 2:24 a.m. HST, Aug 22, 2012
The family of a New York teenager swept out to sea while hiking in Hawaii filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday, claiming tour guides were negligent for leading a group of young people to a dangerous area.
Tyler Madoff's body has not been found since the 15-year-old was swept off the west coast of Hawaii island during a kayak expedition on July 4. The White Plains teen is presumed dead.
The death of Madoff, a Scarsdale High School student, was caused by the tour guides' "outrageously reckless and irresponsible decision" to lead the group from the "safety of the bay to the treacherous lava rock area," according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Honolulu.
They were hiking near the Captain Cook monument at Kealakekua Bay when they stopped to rest at a tide pool, authorities said. The teenagers were led to an area outside of a state permitted area despite dangerous-surf warnings, according to the suit.
"Some of the teenagers scrambled for cover and attempted to grab on to anything to keep them from being swept back out of the tidal pools into the ocean by the violently receding waves," according to the lawsuit. "Tyler was last seen being swept through the tide pool by the raging waters and over the shore line cliffs into the ocean, never to be seen again."
The family also claimed that the group's team leader did nothing to help Madoff. The suit said the man has a criminal history including disorderly conduct and marijuana possession, even though Colorado-based Bold Earth Teen Adventures claims its leaders undergo background checks.
The leader, identified in the suit as Andrew Mork, 22, of Wisconsin, could not be reached for comment.
Abbott Wallis, president and founder of Bold Earth, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit. He previously called the incident a "freak accident" and said guides did all they could to help search for Madoff.
The local company contracted to lead tours, Hawaii Pack and Paddle, was also named as a defendant and could not immediately be reached for comment.
"You had somebody who shouldn't have been there, who took these kids off-permit to a dangerous area … and then ignored all of the conditions that existed on the water," said Susan M. Karten, the Madoff family's New York attorney. "This lawsuit will shine a light on how teen tour companies operate."