Family files suit against boater

posted on:
August 16, 2008

Don Fletcher

A civil complaint has been filed this week on behalf of a Prattville woman who was criti­cally injured last weekend in a boating mishap on Lake Martin, and her husband, who witness­ed the accident but was not in­jured.

Montgomery attorney Jere Beasley filed the complaint, asking that monetary damages be assessed against 22-year-old Patrick Cumbie of Montgomery. Cumbie is accused of powering an open motorboat into a crowd of swimmers, which included Sue Tatum and her husband, Kenny, then ramming into the pontoon boat aboard which sev­eral other members of the Ta­tum family and several friends were enjoying the lake.

The Prattville woman’s brother-in-law, Donnie Tatum — who was also a resident of Prattville — was killed in the in­cident. Alabama Marine Police charged Cumbie with one count each of boating under the influ­ence and homicide by vessel. He is presently free on $15,000 bond, according to Elmore County Jail records.

Beasley said this week that actions such as those for which Cumbie is accused have no place on any waterway, especially one as busy as the lake on which the accident occurred.

“You just can’t tolerate that kind of thing, on any lake, espe­cially not one as highly traf­ficked as Lake Martin,” he said.

The legal action, which was filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, contends that Cumbie “was legally intoxi­cated” at the time of the acci­dent, that he “had a prior histo­ry that included drug and alcohol abuse” and that he “was incompetent to operate a boat or any other type watercraft.”

The suit also seeks damages against “Fictitious Defendant ‘A’,” the unidentified owner of the open motorboat, who “knew or reasonably should have known that (Cumbie) was an in­competent operator” and who “with such knowledge negli­gently entrusted the runabout to (Cumbie).”

The legal papers further claim that, due to Cumbie’s neg­ligence, “Plaintiff Sue Gilmore Tatum … is believed to be per­manently impaired and disa­bled.” Kenny Tatum “has lost the society and companionship of his wife” and “has incurred medical bills and will continue to do so in providing medical care and treatment for his wife,” according to the complaint.

Melody Ragland, marketing coordinator for Baptist Health, reported that the Prattville woman remained in critical condition at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery late Thursday.

On a positive note, friends of the family reported that Tatum, who was on life support for sev­eral days, has shown some im­provement during her hospital­ization. She reportedly underwent successful surgery, which resulted in a reduction of cranial swelling, and is now breathing without the aid of ma­chines.

At least three other people were injured in the late-night boat collision, but each is re­portedly recuperating from his or her wounds.

The most seriously injured among that trio was Prattville resident Greg Moates, who re­portedly was thrown through the pontoon boat’s windshield when Cumbie’s boat plowed into the rear of the vessel.

Moates, who was treated and released at an area hospital, re­ceived cuts to his head that re­quired more than 50 stitches and also suffered injuries to an arm and a leg. He is expected to make a full recovery.


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