Last night, the Eleventh District Commander, Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo, provided a statement (available on CGVI and YouTube) to local media and answered questions (on CGVI and YouTube) about the investigatory process regarding the collision between a 33-foot Coast Guard vessel and a 24-foot recreational boat that occurred Sunday evening in the vicinity of the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights where a young boy was killed and five others were injured.
“I cannot find words adequate to express the level of sorrow and grief the Coast Guard community shares with the family of the child lost in this accident, and we pray for the recovery of the injured. A tragic incident such as Sunday’s crash can shake the public’s confidence and erode their trust. So it is important we find out – and share — and act on what happened,” said Admiral Castillo. He vowed to maintain the hard earned public trust through continued vigilance and providing thorough and full investigations into the incident.
Admiral Castillo directed a Coast Guard internal administrative investigation in accordance with COMDTINST M5830.1 (also available here) in parallel with the NTSB investigation and the investigation by the San Diego Harbor Police. The Coast Guard is dedicated to working with and supporting the NTSB and the harbor police in their independent investigations.
The Coast Guard investigation will be completed as efficiently as possible, but thoroughness and completeness are key. Witness statements along with other information and technical analysis will be used to determine what happened, why, and how to prevent a recurrence of the tragic event. As with any investigation of this type, it will take time before individual pieces of information are assembled into a complete picture. Safety, however, is a priority for the Coast Guard and should the investigations reveal information that can affect the safety of ongoing operations, Admiral Castillo said he will immediately implement recommendations and alert boat operations program managers without waiting for the investigation to be complete.
“The Coast Guard is committed to establishing the facts of how this accident occurred, using that information to prevent a similar accident in the future, and providing a full accounting to the families, the public, and our own people,” said Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard, on his blog earlier.
Although serious boat accidents in the Coast Guard are exceedingly rare, they do happen. From fiscal year 2005 through 2009 there were three, class A mishaps and 10, class B mishaps involving Coast Guard boats nationally during more than 2.5 million operating hours. Class A and B mishaps are the most serious, and include loss of life, permanent disability, damage to a Coast Guard vessel greater than $50,000 or property damage greater than $200,000 (see Table 1). For more information on the mishap classes, see chapter 3, section H (page 3-9) of the Safety and Environmental Health Manual, COMDTINST M5100.47 (also available here).
The Coast Guard places a great deal of responsibility on its boat crews and with that responsibility comes accountability. Immediately following the accident, the Coast Guard boat crew involved assisted with search and rescue work at the scene of the collision along with others. The crew has since been removed from active search and rescue duties until the investigations are complete.
Stay tuned to the Compass for more information as the investigations proceed.