Hiker's death prompts $10 million in claims against Olympic National Park
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Wrongful death and personal injury claims totaling $10,022,700 have been made against Olympic National Park over the death of Bob Boardman, and a full-blown lawsuit may be imminent, according to his estate's lawyer.
“We are intending to file a wrongful death suit,” personal injury lawyer John Messina of Tacoma said.
He said the park is liable for Boardman's death.
“Negligence is the basis,” he said Friday. “Our goal is to seek justice in this case and wake up the park system.”
Three claims were made. They are from Boardman's estate; his widow, Susan Chadd of Port Angeles; and her son, Jacob Haverfield, Messina said, and were made as a prelude to likely filing the lawsuit against the park in federal District Court in Tacoma.
Park officials would not comment on the claims, said Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman.
The claims were served on park Superintendent Karen Gustin on May 1, Messina said.
Boardman, 63, of Port Angeles was fatally gored by a 370-pound mountain goat while hiking on Klahhane Ridge with Chadd and their friend Pat Willits, also of Port Angeles, on the afternoon of Oct. 16.
“I feel like they weren't protecting people and the ecosystem, and I feel that on the day of the accident, they responded very poorly to our calls for help,” Chadd said in an interview.
According to Chief Park Ranger Colin Smith, the mountain goat had a history of “aggressive behavior.”
Boardman had not acted aggressively toward the animal, according to park reports.
The mountain goat, which severed Boardman's artery, stood over Boardman for about 30 minutes, making it impossible for Chadd to reach him, according to park ranger reports of the incident.
Boardman likely died within five minutes of being gored, the reports said.
Chadd said the park was “very irresponsible” by suggesting that throwing rocks would ward off the animal that killed her husband.
The wrongful death claims include $5 million for Boardman's estate, $3 million for Chadd and $2 million for Haverfield.
The personal injury claims of $22,700 include expenses for counseling sessions, massage therapy, newspaper obituaries, emergency room procedures and funeral expenses.
Documents about the incident were obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The hiking party was sitting and eating lunch after hiking on Switchback Trail when the mountain goat came up to them, circled them at a close distance with its head down, pawed the ground, made bleating noises and would not leave, Willits said in her written statement to the park.
Boardman told Chadd and Willits to keep walking ahead of him, at times telling them to “keep going” while the animal followed next to him, Willits said.
It followed beside him for up to a mile before it gored him, according to park ranger reports.
Rangers shot the mountain goat dead the same afternoon with 1-ounce shotgun shells. A necropsy determined it was healthy.
Boardman, a registered nurse, accomplished guitarist, diabetes educator, artist and writer, was honored as a hero at a memorial service attended by 350 mourners at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Center.
Maynes said Chadd's claims were forwarded to the Office of the Solicitor, Pacific Northwest Region, U.S. Department of the Interior in Portland, Ore.
Messina said the deadline for the park's response is Nov. 1.
Kelly Powell, an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Solicitor, said Interior intends to answer the claims.
Options include an offer of settlement “to a simple letter acknowledging part of the claim or denying the claim,” Powell said.
Messina said the federal government's willingness to respond to such claims and to negotiate is “the exception to the rule.”
On Monday: Had the same goat that killed Bob Boardman been aggressive toward him in the past?
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last modified: August 07. 2011 3:25PM