Oil Sheik Sued In Mishap That Left Atlanta Girl Brain-Damaged

WASHINGTON - The son of the next ruler of oil-rich Abu Dhabi is being accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to hide his involvement in a boating accident that left a former Atlanta teenager permanently brain-damaged.

The family of the girl also claims that Sheik Sultan bin Khalifa al-Nahyan has reneged on repeated pledges to pay for her long-term treatment.

The litigation arising out of the 1993 accident is threatening to strain relations between the United States and Abu Dhabi, the richest and most powerful of the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates. The United States views the U.A.E. as a vital counterweight against Iran for influence in Persian Gulf.

Doctors say 18-year-old Tara Jungquist, whose skull was slashed by the whirling propeller of a boat the lawsuit says was operated by the sheik, will need years of attention because of the accident. She suffers from chronic migraine headaches, seizures, insomnia, nausea and short-term memory loss.

Sheik Sultan is the grandson of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the aging president of the U.A.E. and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and is the firstborn son of Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, Sheik Khalifa.

The possible diplomatic strain stems from the sheik's failure to comply with a U.S. federal judge's order that he testify in a $44 million suit the family filed here last May against him. The sheik asserts that he has "sovereign immunity and head of state immunity." But Judge Charles R. Richey has rejected those claims.

Jungquist's father, former Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. executive Calvin Jungquist, said he filed the suit only after pleading for months that Sheik Sultan resume medical payments that had abruptly been terminated.

Efforts to obtain comment from Sheik Sultan have been unsuccessful. Attorneys for the sheik did not return telephone messages.

The suit says the accident occurred on May 7, 1993, when Tara, then 16, joined her 24-year-old sister Michelle and several of Sheik Sultan's friends and advisers on an outing off the Abu Dhabi coast.