Mystery at Sea: Carman demands payment from insurance company; claims boat sinking was not his fault

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BRATTLEBORO — In documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, the attorneys for Nathan Carman, of Vernon, contends the sinking of his boat — the Chicken Pox — on Sept. 18, 2016, "was not the result of any actions by [Nathan] Carman, intended to damage or sink the boat, but rather the sinking and loss of the JC 31 Cruiser was the result of an accidental cause."

Because the sinking was not his fault, Carman's attorney, Richard S. Humphrey, of Tiverton, R.I., asked the court to award his client an $85,000 insurance claim from National Liability & Fire Insurance Co. and Boat Owners Association of the United States.

In late January, the insurance companies informed Carman they would not be honoring his insurance claim because "your boat's sinking was caused by your intentional acts ... [and] the loss was not fortuitous or accidental."

The insurance companies contended Carman "potentially rendered his boat unsafe for operation" by removing one of the boat's structural bulkheads and its trim tabs. In addition, Carman increased the risk by opening "four half-dollar sized holes in the hull near the waterline and attempted on his own to fill them, which was not satisfactory."

"Carman is not entitled to coverage ... because the loss of his boat was caused intentionally by and/or with the knowledge of Carman," noted the Jan. 27 filing. "Carman knew his boat was unseaworthy when it departed Ram Point Marina. The boat's unseaworthy condition proximately caused its sinking. ... Carman's loss was not fortuitous because he had previously removed a structural bulkhead from the boat, because he had previously determined the boat's 'stuffing box wasn't sealed to the hull properly,' because he never determined the boat's aft bilge pump functioned correctly, and because several hours before departing from Ram Point Marina he removed the boat's trim tabs and thereby opened four half dollar sized holes in the hull near the waterline and did not fill them in a satisfactory fashion."

Carman, who lives in Vernon, was missing at sea for a week, after leaving with his mother, Linda Carman, 54, from Ram Point Marina, in South Kingstown, R.I., around midnight. Carman took the Chicken Pox out with his mother on board about six hours after sealing the holes with the putty, according to court documents. At about 1 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2016, Carman noticed the boat's bilge was flooded.

He was found alive by a passing freighter 100 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. During an investigation conducted by the Coast Guard, Carman said when he realized his boat was taking on water, he looked for his mother but did not find her, so he jumped into a life raft with some food and water. He told investigators the boat went down quickly.

"You asked your mother to 'bring in the lines' ... which she acknowledged, and you never communicated with ... or saw her again," stated court documents. "You began moving safety and survival gear to the bow to prepare for the possibility of abandoning ship; however, despite entering the cabin three times you did not make a distress call ..." or activate the emergency beacon "... notwithstanding the fact that three times you were within feet of both these devices while you were preparing for the possibility to abandon ship."

In his answer and counterclaim, filed on April 19, Carman's attorney admitted after he asked his mother to reel in the fishing lines he did not have any further conversation with her before the boat sank. He also admitted to failing to activate the boat's emergency beacon and not attempting to communicate his predicament by radio. The counterclaim does not explain why Carman did not take those actions, but "Defendant Carman admits that as a result of the boat sinking Carman and his mother entered the ocean. Defendant Carman admits that as a result of the boat sinking his mother died."

Carman is also "a person of interest" in the shooting death of his grandfather, 87-year-old John Chakalos, who was killed three years ago in Windsor, Conn. Chakalos also owned an estate in Chesterfield, N.H., which each year was decorated with thousands of dollars worth of Christmas lights for the holidays.

According to CBS Boston, in the course of investigating the killing, authorities found Carman's handwritten notes on making explosives, seized a shotgun and other weaponry from his Middletown, Conn., apartment, and had had "several alarming episodes" while he was a high school student in Connecticut.

According to court documents obtained by the Hartford Courant, an arrest warrant was issued in July 2014 for Carman on a murder charge, but that warrant was returned unsigned with a request from the prosecutor for further information. That warrant also named Carman as the last known person to see his grandfather alive on Dec. 20, 2013, because he had dinner with him at his home in Windsor. Chakalos was found dead the next morning. He had been shot three times, noted CBS Boston. Nathan Carman told the Associated Press that he did not kill Chakalos; he said he was like a son to his grandfather.

Linda Carman's mother, Rita Chakalos, died of cancer just weeks before John Chakalos was killed. A will shows John Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42 million to his four adult daughters.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow him on Twitter @audette.reformer.


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