Report finds no legal justification for deadly crash involving Coast Guard near San Diego

Monday, October 4, 2010

Report finds no justification for fatal boat crash

SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Coast Guard investigating officer has found no legal justification for the deadly collision of a Coast Guard boat with a smaller vessel in San Diego Bay that killed an 8-year-old boy, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Cmdr. J.R. Hamilton said in his report the Coast Guard crew should have known that driving the 33-foot boat fast in a crowded harbor would be dangerous, the newspaper said.

He made his findings after reviewing evidence last week against the three Coast Guard crew members charged in the Dec. 20 crash that killed Anthony DeWeese before a holiday boat parade.

The report, cited on the Times’ website, was being reviewed by Rear Adm. Joseph R. Castillo, who will decide whether to order a court martial, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rick Foster said.

He said he did not have any information on Hamilton’s report, which would be released to the public after Castillo makes his decision.

Hamilton has rejected claims by the three crew members that mechanical defects, poor training and lax leadership led to their collision, according to the Times.

The Coast Guard boat was responding to a report of a grounded vessel when it rammed a pleasure boat with the boy on board. A second child suffered serious head injuries but has largely recovered.

Petty Officers Paul Ramos, who was boat commander and behind the steering wheel, Ian Howell and Brittany Rasmussen have pleaded not guilty in the case in military court.

Ramos faces the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Howell and Rasmussen are each charged with negligent homicide and could spend up to three years in prison.

Attorneys for the defendants argued that each should receive a separate hearing. Government lawyers want to try the three together.

Information from: Los Angeles Times,

(This version CORRECTS Corrects to say report found no legal justification instead of faults crew.)

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