The parents of White Plains teen Tyler Madoff, who died when he was swept out into the Pacific Ocean during a Hawaii kayaking trip in July, are expected to reveal details of their negligence lawsuit against the tour operator Wednesday during a press conference at their lawyer’s Manhattan office.
The press conference is set for 1 p.m. at the West 57th Street office of attorney Susan Karten.
Michael and Marianne Madoff, parents of the 15-year-old Scarsdale High School student, have accused tour operators from Bold EarthTeen Adventures and Hawaii Pack and Paddle, who led a group of teenagers on a hiking and kayaking trip, of showing poor judgment and acting “coldhearted” toward them after their son was swallowed by the ocean. Tyler Madoff and Matthew Alzate, a 15-year-old from Miami, were swept out in the same wave that claimed Tyler Madoff’s life on July 4, as the group hiked near a restricted tide pool area.
While tour guides quickly pulled Alzate to safety, Tyler Madoff’s body was never recovered despite the dedicated efforts of search and dive teams.
The lawsuit alleges tour guides “ignored heavy surf tide and wave advisories for that day,” and “deviated from planned itinerary … in direct contravention of state-issued permits and brought 12 teens to a treacherous and off-limits section of the park,” Karten announced Tuesday.
Tyler Madoff’s death was caused by the tour guides’ “outrageously reckless and irresponsible decision” to lead the group from the “safety of the bay to the treacherous lava rock area,” according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Honolulu.
They were hiking near the Captain Cook monument at Kealakekua Bay when they stopped to rest at a tide pool, authorities said. The teens were led to an area that’s out of a state-permitted area despite dangerous surf warnings, according to the suit.
“Some of the teenagers scrambled for cover and attempted to grab on to anything to keep them from being swept back out of the tidal pools into the ocean by the violently receding waves,” according to the lawsuit. “Tyler was last seen being swept through the tide pool by the raging waters and over the shore line cliffs into the ocean, never to be seen again.”
The family also claimed that the group team leader did nothing to help Tyler Madoff. The lawsuit said the man has a criminal history, including disorderly conduct and marijuana possession, even thoughColorado-based Bold Earth Teen Adventures claims its leaders undergo background checks.
The leader, identified in the suit as Andrew Mork, 22, of Wisconsin, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The suit alleges Bold Earth and its president and founder, Abbott Wallis, “did not notify the Madoffs until hours after the event, and despite having knowledge of the occurrence were more interested in assessing liability.”
Wallis said he hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit. He previously called it a “freak accident” and said guides did all they could to help search for Tyler Madoff.
Hawaii Pack and Paddle was subcontracted by Bold Earth, a Colorado-based company. In previous comments to Newsday, Bold Earth founder and owner Abbott Wallis said he sympathized with Madoff’s parents. Nonetheless, he said his tour operators could not have anticipated the powerful wave that swept up the two teenagers.
“Every single person has described it as a freak accident caused by waves that were unpredictable, like a lightning strike or an earthquake,” Wallis said in July.
Tuesday’s announcement did not include mention of damages sought beyond seeking punitive damages for “emotional distress,” but in previous statements to the media, the Madoffs have said they would donate any lawsuit proceeds to charity or use the funds for safety education.
Check back at Newsday.com this afternoon for further details on the press conference and the lawsuit.