Maui businessman, captain sued for $2M after grounding luxury yacht
A business owner whose luxury yacht ran aground and leaked diesel fuel into waters off Maui last month is being sued for more than $2 million in damages by a trust that sold him the vessel.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Monday seeks at least $1.45 million for the loss of the yacht, which was supposed to be paid off over the course of 15 years. It also seeks at least $500,000 for salvage work and at least $500,000 for environmental damages.
Kevin and Kimberly Albert, trustees of the Albert Revocable Trust in New Mexico, filed the lawsuit against Jim Jones, his company Noelani Yacht Charters, and ship captain Kimberley Kalalani Higa.
The lawsuit says the only approved captain on the insurance policy was Joe Bardouche. Both have a 100 T U.S. Coast Guard license.
The lawsuit says Jones and his company used the vessel “in a grossly negligent manner” for a personal trip without seeking the approval of the trust.
The 94-foot yacht Nakoa ran aground in Honolua Bay on Feb. 20 after its mooring line snapped. Private contractors towed the ship out to sea, where it sank in about 800 feet (244 meters) of water on March 5.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources plans to bill Jones for the $460,000 cost of salvaging the boat. It's also considering fines after the episode damaged coral reef.
The lawsuit says Jones notified the trust after the grounding that he had taken the yacht out for personal use.
It says Jones and Noelani Yacht Charters breached a purchase agreement holding the buyer responsible for any risk of loss or damage. The agreement also outlined operations, crew requirements and restricted uses.
A phone message left for Jones at Noelani Yacht Charters was not immediately returned. The company's website says it's no longer in business.
The company told The Maui News in February that “this was a family retreat with an unfortunate ending.”