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Fire On Board U.S. Small Passenger Vessel Express Shuttle II, Pithlachascotee River, near Port Richey, Florida, October 17, 2004
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Event Summary

Board Meeting : Fire On Board U.S. Small Passenger Vessel Express Shuttle II, Pithlachascotee River, near Port Richey, Florida, October 17, 2004
 
4/4/2006 12:00 AM

Executive Summary

On the morning of October 17, 2004, a fire broke out in the engineroom of the U.S. small passenger vessel Express Shuttle II while it was entering the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River near Port Richey, Florida. The shuttle was returning from the Gulf of Mexico, where it had ferried 78 passengers to an offshore casino boat, and was on its way back to the marina operated by the vessel's owner, Paradise of Port Richey. Only the master and two deckhands were on board when the fire broke out.

None of the crewmembers activated the vessel's fixed carbon dioxide fire suppression system. The crew attempted to fight the fire with portable extinguishers, but when the fire burned out of control, they prepared to abandon ship. A passing recreational boat rescued all three crewmembers. The master and one of the deckhands transferred to another company boat that took them ashore. The recreational boat took the other deckhand to shore, and an ambulance transported him to a local hospital. The deckhand was treated for smoke inhalation, held overnight for observation, and then released. Firefighters from Port Richey and Pasco County fought the blaze, but the vessel, valued at $800,000, was a total constructive loss.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire on board the Express Shuttle II was a fractured, improperly installed fuel injection line on the inboard side of the starboard engine that allowed diesel fuel to spray onto the engine and ignite. Contributing to the cause of the fire was the failure of Paradise of Port Richey to have a preventive maintenance program, which could have identified the company's ongoing problem with the vessel's fuel lines before a failed line led to the fire. Contributing to the extent of the damage were the vessel's faulty fire detection system and the crew's failure to employ proper marine firefighting techniques.

On the basis of its investigation, the Safety Board identified the following safety issues:

  • Preventive maintenance
  • Crew response to fire emergency
  • Fire detection systems

 

As a result of its investigation of the Express Shuttle II fire, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, Paradise of Port Richey, and Caterpillar, Inc.

Recommendations

New Recommendations

As a result of its investigation into the fire on board the Express Shuttle II, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following new safety recommendations:

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

Establish firefighting training requirements for crewmembers on board all small passenger vessels. (M-06-10)

Require that Officers-in-Charge, Marine Inspection, before issuing a certificate of inspection to a small passenger vessel that is required to have a fire detection system, verify that all system components are approved for use in fire detection systems and that the circuits of the system are electrically supervised. (M-06-11)

To Paradise of Port Richey:

Develop and implement a preventive maintenance and inspection program for systems affecting the safe operation of your vessels, including the hull and the mechanical and electrical systems. (M-06-12)

Develop and implement a training program in marine firefighting for your crewmembers. (M-06-13)

To Caterpillar, Inc.:

Revise the service manual for your marine engines to give specific instructions on how to replace a single fuel line and on where fuel line clamps should be located. (M-06-14)

Previously Issued Recommendation Classified in This Report

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

M-02-9
Establish firefighting training requirements for crewmembers on board small passenger vessels in commuter and ferry service.

Safety Recommendation M-02-9 (previously classified as "Open-Unacceptable Response") is classified "Closed-Superseded" in the "Crew Response to Fire Emergency" section of this report.

Reiterated Recommendations

The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following recommendations:

To the U.S. Coast Guard:

M-02-5
Require that companies operating domestic passenger vessels develop and implement a preventive maintenance program for all systems affecting the safe operation of their vessels, including the hull and mechanical and electrical systems.

M-02-10
Revise Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 1-91 so that it provides more in-depth guidance in training and drills for firefighting on board small passenger vessels.


 


 

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