Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is in the news yet again, and this time it’s not because of his underperforming hockey franchise.
Instead, he’s peripherally involved in suing a $500,000-a-week superyacht for a horrible vacation experience.
Two lawsuits discovered by CBC details that Melynk and his girlfriend, Sharilyne Anderson, chartered out the extravagant boat starting on Dec. 22 in the Bahamas, but the entire trip was derailed due to constant conflicts between the Senators owner and the ship’s captain, according to two of Melnyk’s guests.
The litigation filed by Anderson and another plaintiff is demanding a total of $10 million. It claims the ship’s captain was “an odorous, ill-tempered man who was curt and dismissive with the guests and outright angry and abusive to the crew... was easily flustered and overwhelmed and seemed completely unfamiliar with the area, the crew or the vessel."
They are claiming they were victims of negligence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. No claims have been tested in court and the defendants include the captain of the ship and the companies that operate the superyacht.
In one example cited, Melnyk requested the boat travel through an inland route for better sightseeing of the islands, but he was quickly shot down by the captain because it couldn’t handle the shallow water. Instead, the captain opted for an open-ocean route that allegedly fought with the rough waves of the Atlantic, causing a “harrowing 10-15 hour ordeal” that left Melnyk and his girlfriend “violently ill, vomiting throughout the night.”
The lawsuits further claimed that "the seas were so rough that an improperly secured chair on the upper deck of the vessel crashed into the glass partition above the dining area, raining down shards of broken glass that narrowly missed the guests but caused severe emotional distress over the likelihood of being injured."
“It would have been nice had the boat been able to go the inland route," Chris Fertig, one of the lawyers for the superyacht’s management company, told CBC in an interview. "But you can't. It's just a physical impossibility.
"I understand that Mr. Melnyk was upset that the charter didn't go the way he envisioned, but every day there was 35-mile-an-hour winds."
On New Year’s Day, after the bumpy ride, the trip was set to end, but the captain cited the rough waters for his inability to dock and let the guests off the boat. Instead, he opted for the 18-hour trip back to calmer weather, through the open ocean again. In the alleged “false imprisonment,” the passengers were subject to "panic attacks, trauma, fear of death by drowning [and] fear of boarding vessels of any kind,” according to the lawsuit.
After the captain “did his best” to keep the guests safe, according to the company’s lawyer, Melnyk, his family, and friends all signed the ship’s guest book.
"What an amazing way to celebrate the start of the new year 2021! You guys are all amazing! We had a wonderful time," says one entry dated Jan. 1.
"Thank you so much for making this such a great experience! This was an amazing way to start the new year," says another, signed "The Melnyk Group," which the lawyer claimed was written by Anderson.
Aside from the allegedly misinterpreted exit message, Melnyk told CBC that because he is a resident of Barbados — he has been since the 1990s — he was not subject to Canadian travel restrictions.
During this past holiday season, Ontario — where Anderson resides — was under a strict COVID-19 lockdown and both the provincial and federal governments advised against non-essential travel during this time. Melnyk allegedly travelled from Canada to his home in Barbados, then to his destination in Bahamas, skirting around public health recommendations.
"Any subsequent travel from his Barbados residence, regardless of reason, is not subject to Canadian public health regulations," a lawyer on the team's board said in a statement.
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