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July 24, 2014

Boating accident leads to lawsuit against Myrtle Beach tourism leader

The mother of a 14-year-old girl from Georgetown County is suing Myrtle Beach tourism leader Matthew Brittain over a boating accident that crushed the girl’s hand and caused her thumb to be amputated, according to documents filed last week in federal court.

The mother of a 14-year-old girl from Georgetown County is suing Myrtle Beach tourism leader Matthew Brittain over a boating accident that crushed the girl’s hand and caused her thumb to be amputated, according to documents filed last week in federal court.

Mary Hope Georgino, the girl’s mother, claims Brittain was operating his boat — named Epiphany — carelessly in the Murrells Inlet area on May 25, causing the accident. She is seeking unspecified actual and punitive damages.

Brittain told The Sun News that he could not comment specifically on the allegations because the litigation is pending. Brittain has not yet filed an answer to the lawsuit, which is being heard in Charleston

“I do not believe I was a cause of this accident and I intend to defend myself against these allegations,” said Brittain, managing partner of Brittain Resort Management in Myrtle Beach.

Paul Gibson, Georgino’s lawyer, told The Sun News he did not want to discuss specifics of the case but that Brittain was identified as the boat’s operator based on photographs taken at the scene.

According to the complaint, the 14-year-old girl was a passenger on her father’s boat, which was in the process of being moored and rafted alongside several other vessels during an event on the water for the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

“Suddenly, and without warning, Brittain came through the harbor operating the Epiphany at a high rate of speed close to the nearby moored and rafted boats,” the lawsuit states. “Despite numerous calls to slow down, [Brittain’s] speed and proximity caused a huge wake that caused several other boats to rock violently and then fled the scene.”

The 14-year-old girl’s hand was resting on the side of her father’s boat and the force of the collision caused by Brittain’s wake caused her hand to be crushed between two boats, the lawsuit states. The girl’s hand was severely injured and her right thumb was eventually amputated.

The lawsuit claims Brittain was careless and negligent in his actions. Georgino is seeking damages to cover her daughter’s medical bills, disfigurement, trauma and emotional distress. The lawsuit names the boat’s owner, its operator and the boat itself as defendants. No court date has been set.

The Epiphany is a boat with a 48.5-foot hull manufactured in 1990 by Hinckley Yachts, according to public records. The boat is owed by Murrells Inlet Epiphany Inc. Clay Brittain III is the registered agent for that corporation.

Gibson said he is not sure what specific type of boat the 14-year-old’s father was operating, but that it was a much smaller, center-console vessel.

Brittain Resort Management is one of the Myrtle Beach area’s largest lodging companies, with ownership or management interests in more than a dozen properties. It also is a partner in National Golf Management, which owns or manages about two dozen local golf courses.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_

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