A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of a June 2003 charter-boat accident in Oregon concluded that the master’s decision to cross the Tillamook Bay bar during hazardous conditions was the probable cause. The 32’ Taki-Tooo capsized after it turned broadside to the seas.
The board also found that the severity of the accident, which claimed 11 lives, was exacerbated by the failure of the master to ensure that everyone onboard was wearing lifejackets. Capt. Doug Davis died in the accident, along with 10 of the 17 passengers. Only one of the casualties was wearing a lifejacket, while six of the eight survivors had donned lifejackets after the boat capsized.
The report, which was the subject of a June 28 board meeting, also concluded that the Coast Guard failed to enforce regulations that all vessel occupants on outside decks don lifejackets before attempting a hazardous crossing.
Ellen Engleman Conners, chairman-designate of the NTSB, reportedly told the meeting that she found it incredible that Davis spent about 30 minutes deciding whether to cross the bar in heavy seas, but did “not spend 30 seconds doing the obvious: telling [passengers]to put their lifejackets on. It doesn’t make sense.”
The report also included several recommendations. The NTSB said that the Coast Guard should require owners of small passenger vessels in risky areas to develop and implement written go/no-go policies.
The board also recommended that the Coast Guard revise regulations “to require that small passenger vessels operating in Coast Guard-designated surf stations and regulated boating areas on the West Coast have all passengers and crew wear lifejackets while the vessels transit inlets where rough bar warnings are in effect,” which they were on the day of the accident. — Bruce Buls