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Tow operator’s license suspended

Coast Guard officials on Monday suspended the license of the operator of a Virginia commercial assistance towing vessel who was involved in a fatal boating collision last fall.

The collision occurred Oct. 17, 2010, when the operator of the commercial Sea Tow vessel passed underneath the James River Bridge and, upon exiting, collided with a recreational fishing boat.
Lance Brewer, 13, of Gloucester, Va., a passenger aboard the fishing boat, died as a result of the collision.

The Coast Guard's investigation found that neither operator maintained a proper lookout or operated their vessel at a safe speed. As part of a settlement agreement that an administrative law judge approved Monday, Wayne Espinoza, of Virginia Beach, Va., the operator of the Sea Tow vessel, agreed to a 36-month suspension of his license and will attend a Coast Guard-approved training course, the Coast Guard said.

“The simple precaution of reducing speed when operating in the vicinity of the James River Bridge could have prevented this tragic accident,” Cmdr. Jerry Barnes, chief of the prevention department at Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, said in a statement. “Mr. Espinoza failed to exercise the standard of care expected of a licensed operator and the due caution required under the navigational circumstances. It is my hope that this suspension will serve as a reminder to all licensed operators to maintain a safe speed and be ever vigilant.”

Espinoza and Phillip E. Brewer, of Newport News, Va., the operator of the fishing boat, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and await trial.