Report faults both vessels for deadly collision

December 10, 2008 9:06:51 PM PST
The U.S. Coast Guard released its report today on the collision between an Oregon-bound cargo ship and a fishing vessel in heavy fog off Point Reyes that led to the death of a Santa Cruz-based fisherman in July 2007.

The incident involved the 291-foot, Bahamian-flagged cargo ship Eva Danielsen and Paul Wade's 28-foot fishing vessel Buona Madre.

Wade's body was found floating in the water the day after the July 13, 2007 collision about 7.5 nautical miles west of Point Reyes.

The Coast Guard investigation found the crew of the Eva Danielson failed to post a lookout and traveled at an unsafe speed in heavy fog conditions, failed to follow the navigational rules of the road regarding fog signals and operated a vessel negligently.

The report also faulted the cargo ship's crew and Wade for failing to properly man their vessels in light of the prevailing weather conditions.

Wade was alone aboard his wooden fishing boat and was the only one acting as a lookout while maneuvering the boat, monitoring the navigational equipment, and potentially fishing in restricted visibility conditions with visibility under 200 yards, the report states.

The crew of the Eva Danielsen also was faulted for having only one person in the pilothouse to maneuver the vessel, act as a lookout and monitor the navigation equipment in restricted visibility conditions.

The crew of the cargo ship also did not comply with mandatory rest periods and the vessel's radar was not fully utilized in the transit north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the report states. The vessel did not slow down until it was believed it had struck a fishing vessel, the report notes.

The Coast Guard report said Wade "almost certainly survived the collision" with the Eva Danielsen, but that a person of his size in similar weather and sea conditions could have been expected to survive up to 6.9 hours in the water presuming no other injury.

The accident happened around 5:15 p.m. July 13. Wade's body was found the next morning. An autopsy determined the cause of Wade's death was drowning.

The crew of the Eva Danielsen notified the Coast Guard of a possible collision but said it lost contact with a vessel that had been operating in its vicinity, according to the Coast Guard.

The crew said it stopped and searched the area for signs of distress or a collision for about 30 minutes.

Another fishing vessel, Marja, that had previously passed the cargo ship reported by radio it was safe and that another fishing vessel it observed in the immediate vicinity was intact, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard's Air Station San Francisco prepared to launch a helicopter and the Coast Guard Station Bodega Bay launched a rescue boat at 5:40 p.m.

A cutter on patrol outside the Golden Gate Bridge was diverted to the scene. The Coast Guard evaluated the collision report as a false alert and released the Eva Danielsen to continue its journey to Portland, Ore.

The Coast Guard's investigation of the incident also concluded the Coast Guard "did not employ the full range of search and rescue operations available to immediately respond to the suspected collision at sea."