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Family sues tour guides in death of teenager

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:24 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."

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false wrote:
So if the company is Colorado based then are we taxpayers off the hook for the constitutional deep pocket? Sorry of this child's demise, but we know this ocean well and knowingly take the risks but this keiki didn't have that wisdom. So unfair to this family for their loss. Continental companies should be tested before being allowed to operate here.
on August 22,2012 | 05:48AM
saveparadise wrote:
This lawsuit looks legit unlike many that sue our state for their own stupidity to cause injury or loss of life.
on August 22,2012 | 09:11AM
kennie1933 wrote:
A few months ago when there was a number of Japanese tourists dying (mostly drowning) while participating in tour company activities, I had stated that such tour companies should do a better job of explaining potential dangers and emergency procedures and that there may be a language barrier so interpreters or literature in different languages might help. Well,here is a case of an American, English-speaking citizen also falling victim to a "touristy" type activity. And of course, just a few days ago, there was the jet ski tragedy involcing Englis-speaking tourists. There seems to be a LOT of companies out there wanting to make a fast buck off tourists while probably not completely knowledgeable about the particular activities or all the dangers. I think there should be a more stringent application process for these business and also require multi-million dollar insurance policies before they even earn their first dollar. Bad for business? Maybe, but it's just as bad to have all of these unnecessary deaths in the news for all potential tourists to read/hear.
on August 22,2012 | 12:15PM
likewise wrote:
I remember sending off my daughter to the mainland for her senior trip (chaperoned) years ago. I was so worried about what could go wrong I don't think I slept that whole week. This is a parents worst nightmare. My heart goes out to these folks. These tour companies have a great responsibility, especially when it comes to minors.
on August 22,2012 | 01:39PM
sohappy2beme wrote:
Having a mainland based company presume to know our land and blatantly disregard warnings is the height of irresponsibility. A tragic death that was so easily avoided.....my heart breaks for the family.
on August 23,2012 | 05:28PM
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