The duck-boat trial came to a halt Tuesday after the judge in the federal case urged the two sides to enter settlement talks.
It is possible the trial will resume if lawyers for the passengers on the duck boat and for the two companies that operated the vessels involved in the accident can't reach an agreement.
On July 7, 2010, a tug operated by K-Sea Transportation Partners pushed a barge into a duck boat operated by Ride the Ducks. Passengers on the boat filed a civil suit against the two companies, claiming they are liable in the accident. The collision killed two Hungarian tourists.
Robert Mongeluzzi, a lawyer for the families of Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, who drowned in the accident, said it was not unusual that U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O'Neill Jr. asked the parties to settle. O'Neill is trying the case, so there is no jury to be kept waiting while lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants talk.
The suspension came on the second day of the trial. It followed emotional testimony from Kevin Grace, a passenger on the duck boat on July 7, 2010. Grace testified that duck boat Captain Gary Fox had told people where the life jackets were but never demonstrated how to put them on. Fox also never told his passengers to don the life vests after he stopped the boat as a precaution when smoke poured from the engine.
The barge pushed the duck into the Delaware River, forcing the boat and its passengers under the dark water.
Grace, who was visiting from Illinois, said he struggled to put a life jacket on his daughter Ruby, 9, as the barge descended on the duck.
"Under no circumstances was I going to let her die if I had anything to do with it," he said. "The initial impact came with loud screams and cries from the crew and the people on board."
Once they were under water, it was "sheer chaos, sheer panic," he said. "The river rose up and just swallowed us. The only thing I could do was just grab hold of her hair and hold on. It was like being in a washing machine, with strange objects and shoes and clothes and people in the water."
The parties are discussing possible settlement before U.S. District Judge John Padova.