Captain Wilson Bryan was sleeping aboard his yacht Talofa when he was jolted awake at about 5 a.m. on April 23, 2015, he told the Virgin Gorda Magistrates’ Court Tuesday during the ongoing trial of Samuel Ricardo Leonard.

“I was thrown out of my bunk by a very strong shock,” he recalled.

Mr. Bryan was recounting the morning when his 72-foot charter boat was struck by a barge and sank at ground in St. Thomas Bay, VG.

Mr. Leonard, the owner of shipping company Global Ocean Transporting, is facing four charges in relation to the incident: conduct endangering a yacht; leaving the scene of a collision without rendering assistance; failing to keep a proper lookout; and using an unsafe vessel which had defective conditions.

Princess Sam Asia

Mr. Bryan, who was questioned by Crown Counsel Herbert Potter, told the court that after the jolt he ran up to the deck and saw a large, green vessel next to his yacht with the name Princess Sam Asia written across it.

The witness said he looked for a crewmember on board the other boat, but saw no one on its bridge or deck.

After about three minutes, the Princess Sam Asia reversed and left the area, he added. 

A Talofa crewmember put on scuba gear, dove down and inspected the bottom of the vessel, reporting back that three planks had dislocated from its frame, Mr. Bryan testified.

The captain explained that he then intentionally ran the boat aground after he realised it was taking on water faster than the crew could pump it out.

“It was apparent to me that we would sink,” he remarked.

None of the passengers or crewmembers sustained injuries during the incident, according to Mr. Bryan.

The captain added that Mr. Leonard came to the scene a few hours later and asked if the crew needed assistance, but said he did not offer any explanations about the wreck.

Magistrate Ayanna Baptiste-DaBreo asked the witness if there was anything that might have blocked the Talofa from the barge’s view.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said.


Mr. Leonard was offered the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Bryan on Tuesday, but he requested permission to delay the cross-examination until yesterday, when he expected his defence attorney would be present.

Ms. Baptiste-DaBreo agreed that the matter could be stood down until then, but she informed the defendant that no additional time would be allotted.

However, Mr. Leonard requested more time yesterday, stating that his lawyer was still unavailable.

Pointing out that the trial has already been delayed multiple times, the magistrate denied his request, and instructed him to proceed with the cross-examination.

Mr. Leonard asked Mr. Bryan if he recalled signing a form in which he agreed to instruct the prosecution to drop the criminal charges.

According to the defendant, Mr. Bryan signed this form after their civil lawsuit reached a settlement in April.

The witness appeared confused by the question, and said he was told that his civil lawsuit against Mr. Leonard had nothing to do with the Crown’s criminal case.

Ms. Baptiste-DaBreo then explained to Mr. Leonard that a witness did not have the authority to prevent the director of public prosecutions from pressing criminal charges.

The defendant said he had no further questions for the witness.

The trial is expected to continue in November.


At one of the defendant’s earlier court appearances in January, Crown Counsel Chantel Flax-Ward alleged that Mr. Leonard was operating the Princess Sam Asia when it collided with the Talofa in 2015.

“The Talofa yacht received structural damage and began to take on water following the collision,” she said.

Mr. Leonard did not remain at the scene to provide assistance, and he later blamed mechanical failure for the wreck, according to the prosecutor.

The defendant, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, is currently out on $45,000 bail with one surety.