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February 8th, 2011

Coast Guard Crew Member Receives Reprimand in San Diego Boat Accident

As maritime lawyers, we understand the anguish that Anthony DeWeese’s family feels.  The family of the eight-year-old California boy, who was killed in a boat accident involving a recreational vessel and a Coast Guard patrol boat, has expressed its disappointment at the flimsy sentence handed over to one of the Coast Guard crewmembers involved in the accident.

Earlier during a court-martial, Boatswain’s Mate Third Class Britany Rasmussen pleaded guilty to charges of dereliction of duty. She was handed a reprimand as punishment. The charges alleged that she had failed to inform the pilot of the Coast Guard vessel that her view of the water was blocked on the day of the accident in December 2009.

The Coast Guard vessel was traveling at excessive speeds when it crashed into the recreational vessel. Eight-year-old Anthony DeWeese and several members of his family were in the recreational boat, watching the annual Parade of lights in the San Diego Bay. The impact of the accident killed the boy, and several people on the recreational vessel were injured. Eyewitness accounts at the time held that the Coast Guard Vessel had been driving at excessive speeds.

Several members of the Coast Guard vessel were charged after the accident. The pilot of the boat will face a general court-martial in March on charges of aggravated assault, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Ian Howell continues to face charges of negligence, assault, negligent homicide and direction of duty. There was another crew member who had originally been charged in the accident, but since then, he has been found to be not responsible for the accident.

Defense lawyers held that the Coast Guard vessel had a serious blind spot even when the vessel was traveling at moderate speeds. According to Coast Guard experts, the bow of the vessel can pop-up, blocking the view when the vessel is traveling at speeds of 35 knots. Meanwhile, the family of Anthony DeWeese is extremely disappointed at the punishment meted out to Rasmussen.

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