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'Speed was excessive'

The Coast Guard has determined that the primary cause of a collision between one of its patrol boats and a pleasure boat on San Diego Bay in 2009 was the coxswain’s failure to operate in a safe manner. An 8-year-old boy was killed in the accident.

A 33-foot Coast Guard special-purpose craft similar to the one involved in the collision.

A 33-foot Coast Guard boat with five crewmembers on board hit a 24-foot Sea Ray on the night of Dec. 20, 2009, killing Anthony DeWeese. The DeWeese family and two other families were aboard the bowrider just south of Harbor Island, waiting to watch a holiday boat parade. The boy’s father, Alan DeWeese, was driving the dual console boat. The Coast Guard boat was responding to a non-emergency call from a grounded sailboat.

The Coast Guard’s 14-page administrative report, released Thursday, also says a “poor command climate at Station San Diego” and the crew’s failure to perform its duties and carry out proper navigation procedures contributed to the well-publicized accident.

“No member was performing lookout duties or reporting what they saw to the coxswain,” the report states.

Three crewmembers were found guilty of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The coxswain, 21-year-old Paul Ramos, was found guilty of dereliction of duty and sentenced to three months in the brig with a reduction in rank. He was acquitted of several other charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The DeWeese family (Anthony in the center).

The Coast Guard faulted Ramos in four areas: failure to operate at a safe speed, failure to use additional caution during nighttime navigation, failure to maintain an adequate lookout and his decision to respond to a non-emergency call.

“The speed was excessive for safe operation of the vessel and did not allow time for effective action to be taken to avoid collision or to stop within a distance appropriate under the prevailing circumstances,” the report states.

In its investigation, the Coast Guard considered the findings of a separate probe by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“The NTSB report indicates that [the Coast Guard boat] may have been traveling at speeds of about 42 knots … before the collision, and traveling at least 19 knots at the time of the collision,” the Coast Guard report says. “Crew and witness accounts, along with engine data, estimated speed between 19 and 40 knots at the time of the collision.”

The Coast Guard report says the Sea Ray was motoring at about 2 to 4 knots with its port and starboard navigation lights on. There was conflicting evidence as to whether the all-around white light was on, but the NTSB said it was lit.

A 24-foot Sea Ray deck boat similar to the model involved in the collision.

The NTSB in July 2011 concluded that the Coast Guard’s excessive speed at night in crowded waters was the probable cause of the accident.

Click here for the full report.

Click here for Soundings’ coverage of the accident.