NTSB faults Coast Guard small boat operators for fatal accident

The National Transportation Safety Board says deficient oversight by the Coast Guard was partly responsible for an accident that killed a child and injured four other boaters.

The report issued July 12th follows an investigation into the collision between one of the Coast Guard’s small patrol boats and a recreational boat in San Diego in December of 2009.

The 33-foot boat – designated as ‘special purpose craft – law enforcement’ — with five crewmembers from Station San Diego was dispatched to check on a possible grounding. They were underway at high speed at night, in an area with heavy traffic just before a holiday boat parade, when they hit and ran up on the 24-foot Sea Ray from dead astern. Thirteen people, including the boy, were on the boat.

The Coast Guard boat was planing, or traveling at least 19-knots and perhaps as high as 42-knots.

NTSB investigators concluded that the Coast Guard boat was traveling too fast for conditions, and the reported grounding did not require such a high speed. The Coast Guard boat also had obstructions to forward visibility. Some of the crew – who could’ve been helping as look-outs — was apparently distracted with cell phone calls and text messaging. The NTSB also says that oversight of safe small boat operations at Station San Diego was “ineffective.”

The NTSB recommended that the Coast Guard implement procedures to get around the boat’s forward visibility issues, reexamine small boat operations service-wide, and establish procedures for safe operating speeds.

The NTSB had earlier recommended the Coast Guard implement a policy for the use of cell phones or wireless devices aboard their vessel.

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