By Jim Smith
HYANNIS, Mass. — One year ago next week, Catherine Kinsella was enjoying a summer break on Cape Cod. Like hundreds of Irish students who come to the Cape each summer to work and live near the waterfront, the 20-year-old student from Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, was staying at a motel in Hyannis while working at a nearby Dunkin Donuts.
Known at Kate to her many friends, Kinsella had recently completed a year of college in Dun Laoghaire and was planning to become an elementary school teacher back home in Ireland.
On July 22, 2001, she joined a group of her Irish friends aboard the 58-foot charter boat Sea Genie II for a Sunday night cruise in Hyannis Harbor. A total of 60 people were on board: three crew, one disc jockey, Kinsella, and 55 other passengers, more than a dozen of whom were students from Ireland.
Although 30 of the passengers were under the legal drinking age of 21, those on board said large quantities of alcohol were readily available to the passengers, all of whom had paid $35 for the party cruise. The night of music, dancing and fun in Hyannis Harbor turned tragic around 11 p.m., as word quickly spread that one of the passengers, Kinsella, had fallen overboard, evidently through a broken railing on the boat’s deck.
What happened next on the boat is the subject of an ongoing grand jury investigation in federal court in Boston, with the presumed targets being the charter boat’s captain, Joseph Shore, and his son Cord Shore, who was piloting the boat.
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According to passengers, Kinsella fell into the sea at approximately 11 p.m. The Coast Guard received a distress call at 11:20 p.m. Her body was recovered by the Coast Guard at 12:50 a.m. Efforts to revive her were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital.
Her blood-alcohol level was nearly .13, which is above the .08 level at which a person is considered to be intoxicated if driving in Massachusetts. The Shores passed breathalyzer tests administered by Barnstable police when the boat returned to the harbor. They also passed a urine test for drugs the following morning, although that test was self-administered and not supervised by an agency of law enforcement.
During the initial investigation by Barnstable police, several Irish students interviewed at Cape Cod Hospital claimed that the boat’s pilot, Cord Shore, was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana during the cruise.
In addition, they alleged that the crew members were more concerned about hiding evidence of alcohol consumption than they were about searching for the young woman who had fallen overboard.
More than a dozen Irish students testified before a Barnstable County grand jury on July 31 about the behavior of the crew on the night in question. That recorded testimony and other evidence was subsequently turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is continuing the probe.
Although grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and nearly all of the witnesses in this case have remained publicly unidentified, one passenger, David Crosbie of East Falmouth on the Cape, testified at a public hearing in March that he smoked marijuana with Cord Shore during the cruise.
The hearing was held to allow the Sea Genie II’s owner to appeal the Town of Barnstable’s decision to revoke the slip-rental agreement for the boat following the drowning.
Crosbie, who was 20 years old when the tragedy occurred, testified before a hearing officer, attorney James Lampke, that in the days following the death of Kinsella, Cord Shore was upset to learn that some of the passengers, particularly the young Irish, were pointing the finger of blame at him. Crosbie said that Shore described the developing criminal probe as “a fight between the Irish and America.”
According to Lampke’s final report, in which he upheld the revocation of the owner’s use of the boat slip, Crosbie testified that the Shores ordered a head count on the boat after about 20 minutes had lapsed since they were first notified that someone had fallen off the boat. During that period of confusion, the Shores also instructed passengers to toss bottles and cans of beer overboard.
Crosbie, who received treatment for substance abuse in the months following the accident, is described as a “very candid and credible witness” in Lampke’s report.
Crosbie testified that he could hear the screams of Kinsella in the pitch-black waters for about a half hour as the crew scurried around in a state of confusion. He said that Cord Shore belatedly and only reluctantly called the Coast Guard because a female passenger was crying and yelling at him to do so. Soon thereafter, Kinsella’s screams could no longer be heard.
In his 27-page report to the Town of Barnstable, Lampke concluded that the conduct of the Shores was “reprehensible.”
“It can be reasonably inferred that had the pilot of the boat [Cord Shore] not used drugs and consumed alcohol, his responses and the time of response might have been different, and the drowning might not have occurred,” Lampke said. “The furtive conduct of the Shores and crew in trying to conceal the extent of the drinking and drug use on the boat . . . speaks to their knowledge of the wrongful conduct they engaged in.”
Lampke further found that Captain Joseph Shore “participated in the service of alcohol to the people on board, including those who were under age,” despite the fact that the town’s licensing board had recently denied his application to serve alcohol on the boat.
Lampke concluded that Joseph Shore “had a responsibility to act in a manner so as not to endanger the public and abuse the privilege of having use of a town slip. His conduct was contrary, and the result was the tragic drowning of a visitor to our country.”
The federal statute relating to misconduct or neglect by ships’ officers carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The crew could also face a federal charge of involuntary manslaughter.