The father of one Tequesta teenager lost at sea in July 2015 is asking that his name be removed from a wrongful death lawsuit filed in July by the family of the other teen.
Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 14, disappeared July 24, 2015, after taking a 19-foot boat into a fierce offshore storm.
William “Blu” Stephanos, Austin’s father, is one of four people named in the court action. The others are Austin’s mother, Carly Black, his grandfather, Richard Kuntz, and his stepfather, Richard “Bubba” Black.
Stephanos wants to be “dismissed from this case as he did nothing wrong, he was not in charge of the boys and he had never seen the boat,” according to court documents filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
The Cohen lawsuit alleges that Stephanos is responsible, in part, for Cohen’s death because he failed to notify authorities after learning that the boys were missing and then “delayed” the search “in the most critical moments” by conducting his own search while withholding information from rescuers.
Stephanos, who went looking for the boys in his own boat, counters in his motion that it is “patently reasonable” for a parent, especially a parent without custody, to look for a child before phoning 911.
As far as impeding the search, the motion claims the Cohen’s lawsuit “wants to blame Blu for trying to help. Thankfully, that is not the law in Florida.”
The motion states that Stephanos eventually joined rescue crews to look for the boys so “clearly the authorities knew Blu was helping and not hindering, or they would not have had him with them during the search.”
Guy Rubin, Cohen’s attorney, said Thursday by phone that Stephanos has never accounted for his time after the boys went missing and withheld information — for instance, where the boys liked to fish and where he had seen them last — from rescuers.
“When a party is not transparent, particularly in a situation when ordinarily parents would do everything they could do cooperate with law enforcement, that raises a lot of questions and red flags,” Rubin said. “We can only assume that every minute was precious and that every minute 911 wasn’t aware the boys were missing is a potential opportunity to save their lives that was wasted.”
Stephanos is divorced from Black, who had custody of Austin. Stephanos was at work in Palm Beach Gardens the day the boys went missing and the motion contends that “Perry was never in the care, custody or control of Blu on the day of the accident.”
The lawsuit singles out Black and Stephanos for refusing to allow law enforcement to get data from Austin’s cellphone, a matter that was later settled in court.
That issue is not addressed in Stephanos’ motion.
Rubin said the decision not to mention Stephanos’ refusal to allow a forensic investigation of the cellphone “is a very convenient omission and really central to the lawsuit — why hasn’t Blu Stephanos been transparent with information he possesses from Day One?”
Rubin said he expects a decision to be made on Stephanos’ motion following the discovery process, which he said could take from three to six months.
“It is a terrible thing to have allegations that one was responsible for such a tragic event — especially when there is no legal basis, and no factual basis for such allegations,” according to Stephanos’ motion, filed by attorney Michael J. Pike.
Read The Post’s complete coverage of the missing Tequesta teens at myPalmBeachPost.com/missing-teens