A Franklin County Common Pleas judge has approved a contract for a Tampa shipwreck salvager to bring up the remaining gold from the SS Central America shipwreck.
Judge Pat Sheeran gave the OK for Odyssey Marine Exploration to go out in April to begin retrieving the booty from the steamer, which sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina with tons of gold on board.
The shipwreck was discovered by former Battelle scientist Tommy Thompson and his crew in the late 1980s after investors, mostly from central Ohio, provided him with $22 million for the expedition.
Thompson’s group brought up several tons of gold, silver and artifacts from the wreck, but investors never were paid. The recovery effort was mired in legal proceedings for more than two decades.
The gold and silver were sold for more than $40 million in the early 2000s. In 2012, Thompson disappeared after a federal judge ordered him to appear for a hearing.
Last summer, Sheeran appointed a receiver, Ira O. Kane, to take over Thompson’s companies, and Kane negotiated a contract with Odyssey. The receivership has exclusive salvage rights to the shipwreck.
Under its contract, Odyssey will pay for the recovery and receive 80 percent of the recovery proceeds until certain expenses are paid. Then Odyssey will receive 45 percent of the recovery proceeds, according to the company.
The shipwreck is at a depth of 7,200 feet and less than 5 percent of the site has been investigated, according to an Odyssey press release sent out this morning.
“The SS Central America is one of the greatest shipwreck stories of all time,” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s chief operating officer. “We’re honored to be working with the receiver and his team to share the next chapter of this historically important shipwreck with the world.”
By Kathy Lynn Gray - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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