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Coast Guard Report Blames Death Of Teen In 2006 On Unauthorized Modifications to Tour Boat's Mast

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Mary Vorsino, of the Honolulu Advertiser reports that the Coast Guard has reported on two tourist deaths in separate incidents. A 13 year old boy was killed on a catamaran off Waikiki in 2006 when the mast on the tourist catamaran buckled and killed the boy and injured three passengers.

In another investigation of a 2007 incident on the ocean near Lahaina on Maui, the Coast Guard has issued a report blaming that a crack in the structure that held the mast caused the mast to collapse killing a 48-year-old man from Illinois who was struck in the head. According to the Advertiser story:

The two catamaran incidents, just four months apart, were investigated together so the Coast Guard could examine its standards for inspecting commercial catamarans. Even before the investigations were completed, the Coast Guard in Honolulu decided to beef up its annual inspection standards, which now include a more thorough examination of catamaran masts.

"We’ve implemented the procedures here … (and) there is discussion as to whether these" standards will be adopted nationally, Honolulu Coast Guard Capt. Barry Compagnoni said yesterday.

On December 1, 2006 the mast of the catamaran Na Hoku II buckled in three places, struck the head of Jordan Loser of Riverside, California and pinned him face-down on the cabin top. Jordan died as a result of the injuries. The boat was returning to Waikiki about 4:30 p.m. after a trip to Mamala Bay. The cause of the mast failure was unauthorized modifications made to the mast beginning in 2000 and not detected in Coast Guard inspections as late as April 2006.

A second passenger standing on the front left side of the vessel was struck on the head by falling rigging and knocked out. Two other passengers, in the front of the vessel near the cabin, also suffered injuries: one had a broken foot and pelvis, the other cuts to her shoulder and hand.

The Coast Guard report also notes that the master of the catamaran and one of its crew members tested positive for marijuana immediately after the incident. According to the Advertiser story:

The Coast Guard report said it is unclear whether marijuana use affected the crew members’ abilities "to respond to changing conditions on-scene in a manner that might have prevented the casualty." Passengers on board the vessel said the two crew members did not appear to be impaired.

The maximum fine for failing to report a modification to the Coast Guard is $6,500 per modification.

Our thoughts go out to the families. A tribute to Jordon Loser was made that celebrates his life and mourns the loss.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BExbYiSDOs

In the Maui incident aboard the Kiele V on March 25, 2007 the "microscopic" failure in the structure that supports the mast occurred about 10 minutes from Ka’anapali Beach. The mast and rigging crashed down on Hal Pulfer, 48, of Highland Park, Illinois, killing him and injuring 2 other passengers. The Kiele V was carrying 47 passengers and five crew members at the time. After the mast fell, the catamaran started taking on water and later was abandoned and broke apart in rough seas overnight. An inspection of the Kiele V in September 2006 found no problems.

Nothing can make up for this these tragic incidents. We hope they will spur new efforts by tour boat operators to make the vessels safe for passengers.