A Coast Guard auxiliary operator's failure to use proper towing procedures when towing a stalled pleasure boat in hazardous seas off Shelter Island, near Juneau, Alaska, caused the capsizing of the stalled boat and the drowning of its operator, said the National Transportation Safety Board today.
On August 21, 1994, a disabled 18-foot Questar motorboat with the vessel's owner and one passenger aboard capsized while being towed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel the PUPPET immediately south of Shelter Island, near Juneau, Alaska. The Questar's owner, who was mildly disabled, was trapped inside the vessel's cabin and drowned. The passenger was uninjured.
At a public meeting today in its Washington, D.C. headquarters the NTSB determined the probable cause in the boat's capsizing was the Coast Guard operator's use of improper towing procedures. Contributing to the capsizing was the failure of the operator to properly assess the risk before deciding to tow the vessel in hazardous sea conditions.
To prevent similar accidents, the NTSB issued several recommendations to the Coast Guard, including the suggestion that it develop a policy regarding the weather and sea conditions in which towing should be conducted. Further, the Board urged the Coast Guard to revise its search and rescue policy to include the removal of all occupants from a towed vessel before beginning the towing process or, if personnel remain on board, revise Coast Guard policies to ensure that all people on board are capable of being safely rescued in the event of an emergency.
The Board also urged the Coast Guard to take the following educational steps: incorporate lessons learned from this accident into a training exercises; publicize the circumstances of this accident to all Coast Guard units responsible for search and rescue; and, disseminate a copy of the NTSB report to all Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel involved in search and rescue missions.
The NTSB's complete report, PB96-916402, may be purchased from the National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 487-4650.