PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Nathan Carman, the Vermont man at the center of a civil trial over insurance on his boat that sank in 2016, took the witness stand Thursday at court in Providence.
The 24-year-old is being sued by his insurance company over his $85,000 insurance claim for the boat, and modifications it’s alleged he made which invalidated the insurance policy.
Carman and his mother, Linda, vanished after the boat sank off the coast of Rhode Island on a fishing trip. Carman was later found and rescued; his mother remains missing and is presumed dead.
Wednesday, an employee of the National Liability and Fire Insurance Company and BoatUS testified about the claim Carman made, and a written statement Carman wrote in the claim was entered into evidence with his narrative of how it sank.
In court Thursday afternoon, Carman said when his boat — the “Chicken Pox” — sank, he did not turn on the boat’s radio and call for help.
“I thought we were outside the radio range,” he said. “I have an extremely strong aversion to pressing a button, knowing it will bring helicopters, unless I know we are sinking.”
He added it wasn’t unusual to have water in the bilge.
And yet, he walked forward on the deck, and as it started to feel “spongey” under his foot, it disintegrated.
“Next thing I know I was in the water. I remember seeing the roof of the pilothouse slip away,” he said.
The boat sank in three to five minutes.
During the morning, attorneys for the insurer quizzed Carman about the boat’s origins, and Carman confirmed it was first registered in New Hampshire, and then Rhode Island.
In cross-examination, Carman answered questions about the technology on board the boat, including GPS equipment. He also said he’d never purchased — or written on — a paper chart or map out of the context of this case. He’d also struggled to pinpoint where on a map his boat sank.
Thursday’s session wrapped up at 4:30 p.m., with Carman slated to return to the witness stand Friday morning to continue cross-examination by his attorney.
Both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys have been ordered by the judge to establish their cases in 15 hours each — and is keeping time with a chess clock. Accordingly, at the end of Thursday, he noted that the trial would definitely end Friday; the plaintiffs had about 2 hours remaining, while the defense had about 2 hours, 20 minutes left on the clock.
The judge has barred any questions or comments about Linda Carman’s disappearance, limiting the insurance company’s questioning to the boat’s condition.
Carman’s aunts — Linda’s sisters — believe Nathan killed both his mother and his grandfather John Chakalos in hopes of inheriting a portion of Chakalos’ $44 million estate.