Investigation finds Portland fireboat crash was worse than reported

PORTLAND, Maine - The Portland Fire Department continues to be under fire here in Maine's biggest city following a second accident involving the department's lead fireboat, which was acquired in 2009. 

While researching the second incident, which happened in October 2011 and led to new regulations about guests on the vessel, the local Portland Press Herald uncovered a strange fact about the first accident, which occurred in November 2009 during an emergency response near Jewell Island: The repairs apparently cost almost twice as much as the department reported at the time.

Press Herald reporter Randy Billings, as part of a Freedom of Access Act request related to the second accident, uncovered documents that show the repairs cost roughly $173,000, not the $90,000 that city officials and the department initially reported. 

The city had taken possession of the new fireboat, the City of Portland IV, which was the first built by A.F. Theriault & Son, in late July, and had paid some $3.2 million for it, when the accident occurred in November of 2009. Trying to help an elderly couple, one of whom fell in the water while duck hunting, the boat ran aground, punching a hole in the hull and damaging the propeller blades. The Press Herald counted up 30 invoices from 11 different companies who worked to repair the damage, totalling $173,000. The city said it cost only $90,000 and that number has been repeatedly reported in a number of news outlets.