After tragedy comes blame

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NOV. 9 — It took more than a year, but the Coast Guard announced Wednesday the conclusion of the investigation into the cause of a September 2006 fatal collision between the freighter Barkald and the sailing yacht Essence in Long Island Sound.

The Coast Guard states Essence’s mate, Nardus “Blue” Bothma, failed to “properly identify the aspect of the lights” of the oncoming freighter, steering the yacht right into the larger ship. Investigators said the crew of both vessels failed to adequately determine that a risk of collision existed and there was “inadequate communications” between both vessels as they approached.

The 623-foot freighter was heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Bridgeport, Conn., around 4 a.m., according to a Coast Guard press release. Around the same time Essence, a 92-foot charter vessel with a three-person crew, was on its way to Greenwich, Conn., from Newport, R.I. The vessels collided about 12 miles southeast of New HavenHarbor shortly after 4 a.m., sinking Essence and tossing the crew into the water.

The pilot of Barkald radioed the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Command Center in New Haven, Conn., and a 25-foot rescue boat was launched to seek the Essence crew, according to the report. Bothma and his fiancée — the boat’s cook, Gina Bortolotti — were pulled from the water and rushed to nearby Yale New Haven Hospital. Bothma survived, but Bortolotti did not. The owner of the boat, Ian Robberts, was rescued by a lifeboat on board Barkald, according to the report.

The Coast Guard has yet to announce if Bothma will be subjected to penalties.

— Elizabeth Ellis