By Associated Press - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - A Louisiana dredging company pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal negligence resulting in the boating death of a 54-year-old Biloxi man.

U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis, in a news release, said C.F. Bean, LLC of Belle Chasse entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden, admitting to improperly marking its dredge operation near Deer Island.

Mark Barhanovich died Sept. 16, 2012, in an accident near the eastern tip of the island. His 23-foot fishing vessel hit an object in the water, causing his outboard motor to break and flip into the boat. Its propeller struck Barhanovich in the back.

The Coast Guard has said the object was a partially submerged dredging pipe and the company had taken down lights and other warning devices before a hurricane and failed to replace them.

“Boaters depend on dredging companies to properly follow rules for marking their dredge operations, so that mariners can avoid hazards that can prove highly dangerous or even fatal, as was the sad situation here,” Davis said. “It is hard to understand how an experienced maritime business like this could have failed in its duty at such a high cost.”

Davis’ office said Bean was ordered to pay the $500,000 maximum penalty, a mandatory $400 special assessment and placed on five years’ probation.

The Mississippi State Port Authority had awarded Bean a contract for a restoration project at the Mississippi State Port at Gulfport, which involved dredging and transporting dredge spoil materials to a site at Deer Island near Biloxi.

According to the bill of information, federal law required the company to put lights and shapes on its barge as a warning to boaters.

The accident occurred about 6:20 a.m. No details have been released on weather conditions.

The pipeline stretched between Deer Island and the barge in a popular path for recreational boaters from Biloxi’s Back Bay and the Ocean Springs Harbor.

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