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Widow of drowning victim sues Army Corps of Engineers

The widow of a Leesburg, Ga., man who drowned in 2009 while duck hunting on Lake Seminole, has filed suit against the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is seeking a total of $40 million in damages.

Amanda DeLoach Slappey, the widow of the late John Mark Slappey, filed suit June 18 in the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia Albany Division. In the suit, she seeks $25 million in damages for herself, and $15 million in damages for the couple’s child.

John Mark Slappey died in December 2009, after he was swept over the Jim Woodruff Dam while hunting on Lake Seminole. Slappey’s body was not recovered until Jan. 24, 2010.

According to court documents, the lawsuit alleges that Slappey’s death was directly related to negligence by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lawsuit claims that the Corps opened the spillway and left it open, creating powerful currents that swept her husband over the dam.

Also, according to the lawsuit, a sign stating “Danger Stay 800 Feet From Dam” was present on the site but was too small to be read, and did not adhere to the Corps’s own signage regulations.

The lawsuit notes that a “buoy and cable line restraining device” was present, but that it was in a “state of disrepair such that it was useless in its essential purpose to protect the recreating public … from being sucked through one of the open spillway gates and drowning.” Finally, the lawsuit alleges that a Corps employee threw Slappey a life preserver, but it was in “such a state of disrepair that it broke into pieces” when he grabbed it.

Amanda Slappey is being represented by Albany attorneys W. Earl McCall and Alex J. Kaplan of the law firm McCall Williams, LLC. The Corps has not immediately filed a response to the lawsuit.