NTSB: High speed played role in Coast Guard crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday determined that the probable cause of a 2009 collision in San Diego Bay between a Coast Guard patrol boat and a recreational powerboat was the excessive speed of the Coast Guard boat in nighttime conditions in an area of high vessel density.

The board also attributed the accident to ineffective Coast Guard oversight of its small boat operations nationally and at Coast Guard Station San Diego.

At about 5:44 p.m. (PST) on Dec. 20, 2009 in San Diego Harbor, a 33-foot-long Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement Coast Guard vessel with five crewmembers aboard collided with a 24-foot Sea Ray carrying 13 people.

The collision occurred during the Parade of Lights, an annual holiday boating event.

The Coast Guard boat, which was responding to a reported grounding, struck the Sea Ray from behind. An 8-year-old boy was killed and four other people were seriously injured. No one in the Coast Guard boat was hurt.

“The Coast Guard is an organization that traditionally fills the role of rescuer,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement. “It is especially sad that a family night of celebration in the bay ended in tragedy because of a coxswain’s poor judgment and the Coast Guard’s ineffective oversight of vessel operations.”

The investigation showed that at least one of the crewmembers saw the Sea Ray as they approached it from behind. Three of the five crewmembers on the Coast Guard boat, including the operator, refused to be interviewed by NTSB investigators.

The NTSB recommended that the Coast Guard increase vigilance in checking the speed of its boats, establish policies that prohibit excessive speed and develop a monitoring system to detect deviations from standard operating guidance and procedures.

The board also recommended that the Coast Guard implement procedures to ensure that crewmembers can compensate for obstructions potentially affecting forward visibility on their SPC-LE vessels.

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Comments

3 comments on “NTSB: High speed played role in Coast Guard crash

  1. Captain Bob Armstrong

    While I have the highest respect for the operational Coast Guard (the “Desk Jockeys” not so much), I stronlgly believe that we, and their superiors, too often forget that most of the men and women on this kind of duty are still kids. As such, they need more discipline and supervision than they are often given. As a long time professional captain I know all too well that the ultimate responsibility for any vessel lies solely in the person in charge. But I can only agree that better monitoring on the part of their superiors would go a long way to avoiding the accidents and other unfortuante actions that so often result from youthful exuberance and a lack of experience.

  2. Captain Gordon Schwarzer

    I have to agree with Captain Bob pertaining to youthful exuberance. I was a member of a large volunteer fire department on L.I.N.Y. and one of the protocols we had in training new members and reminding the older members was “Prioritize” the call. A structure fire at the Grade school at 0200 in the morning had a different priority than the same school at 1000 in the morning on a school day. As for the unfortunate incident with the USCG described, a grounding was a hazard where as a fire would have been more of an emergency demanding the posting all personnel as lookouts. I can hear it all now, we’re stretched thin because of budget restraints, I say aren’t we all.

  3. floridafishfinder

    Dittos: Capt. Bob & Capt. Gordy.
    Highest respect for most all operational USCG crews!
    But this specific coxwain perhaps needs to find a more suitable line of work before another ‘incident’ gets more people killed because of his poor judgement!

    “The investigation showed that at least one of the crewmembers saw the Sea Ray as they approached it from behind. Three of the five crewmembers on the Coast Guard boat, including the operator, refused to be interviewed by NTSB investigators.” Excuse me, but WTF???!!! If that’s not grounds for a court martial I’m not sure what is. Sounds like a ‘silent conspiracy’ to me! All need to be Court Marshalled for the death of the 8 year old boy. Regardless of anything that is done, there is an 8 year old boy who will never go to a prom, get his first kiss, fall in love, play high school sports or have the opportunity to serve his country and grow up to be a fine man because of this man’s actions!
    Lastly, “The NTSB recommended that the Coast Guard increase vigilance in checking the speed of its boats, establish policies that prohibit excessive speed and develop a monitoring system to detect deviations from standard operating guidance and procedures.” -Just wondering has the Coast Guard heard of GPS and a chain of command?
    The USCG need a comprehensive review from the academy to the stations to ensure “Semper Paratus”! For one, I’d feel safer if the next article on this subject describes how the men responsible for this action and those who refused to assist have been Court Marshalled and discharged of duties. There is no excuse for this and it is totally dishonorable to refuse to assist in the investigation. If this was Hamilton’s U.S. Cutter Service, heads would roll!!

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