Boy killed, 5 people injured in crash of Coast Guard, civilian boats in San Diego Bay

Monday, December 21, 2009

1 dead, 5 hurt in CA Coast Guard boat collision

SAN DIEGO — A 33-foot Coast Guard vessel and a pleasure boat collided as a Christmas watercraft parade was going on in San Diego Bay, killing an 8-year-old boy and seriously injuring five people, authorities said.

There were no other injuries among the 13 people aboard the 24-foot pleasure boat in the 6 p.m. accident Sunday, Coast Guard spokeswoman Jetta Disco said. None of the five people aboard the Coast Guard patrol boat was hurt.

The injured were rushed to University of California, San Diego Hospital, where the boy was declared dead, said Fire Department spokesman Maurice Luque.

Five others were treated for serious injuries.

“They’re all considered major traumas,” Luque said.

No names or details of the injuries were released.

Neither boat was participating in the parade, said Ron Sheehan, spokesman for the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, in which more than 80 vessels festooned with Christmas lights and decorations cruise through the bay.

Many boats full of spectators filled the bay to watch the parade and fireworks. But the Coast Guard did not say if the recreational boat was among them or how close the accident occurred to the parade area.

Authorities have not said how the accident occurred, but it came just after sundown in clear weather with light winds.

Sandy Fenten told the San Diego Union-Tribune she was sitting on Harbor Island when she saw a boat with emergency lights head toward downtown San Diego, then turn around and collide with another boat.

“All of a sudden, you heard this tremendous thud or crash,” said Fenten.

The parade’s Web site said an estimated 80,000 people were expected to attend the last of eight nights of the parade Sunday, which also featured a fireworks show.

The 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Haddock had been scheduled to lead the parade, which was supposed to begin about the same time as the accident, but was called away to the collision scene.

The parade otherwise continued as planned, Sheehan said.

Paramedics took the child victim to a fuel dock at Harbor Island then taken by ambulance to the hospital, and the five injured adults were taken by boat to Shelter Island, then by ambulance to the hospital.

The Coast Guard patrol boat was responding to a report of a grounded vessel at the time of the collision, Disco said.

Sector San Diego Commander Capt. Tom Farris said in a statement that the Coast Guard and other agencies “will conduct a thorough investigation to try to determine what led to this tragedy and what can be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

Farris said the National Transportation Safety Board was assisting in the investigation.

Both boats returned to shore and were being assessed for damages, Disco said.

San Diego Harbor Police and the San Diego Fire Department assisted in the rescue efforts, officials said.

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