Casualty News December 2020

NTSB details lessons learned in new Safer Seas Digest
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its annual report highlighting lessons learned from maritime accident investigations.

Safer Seas Digest 2019, released earlier this month, contains key details from notable incident reports during the 2019 calendar year. Entries for more than two-dozen incidents contain condensed versions of the incident reports, including photos and graphics to highlight what went wrong.

The 2019 edition covers several high-profile casualties, among them the fatal Stretch Duck 7 sinking in July 2018 and the collision between the Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain and tanker Alnic MC in August 2017 that left 10 American sailors dead.

“We investigate accidents not to document what happened, but to understand why and how so that we might prevent similar accidents from happening,’’ NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a prepared statement. “The Safer Seas Digest distills the most important lessons from each tragedy so mariners can use the information to save lives.’’

The report can be found on the NTSB website by clicking here.

Federal charges dismissed against three in duck boat tragedy
Federal charges have been dropped against three people connected to the Stretch Duck 7 sinking in July 2018 on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. Sixteen passengers and one crewmember died.

A federal judge ruled on Dec. 3 that charges should be dismissed against Kenneth Scott McKee, Curtis P. Lanham and Charles V. Baltzell, the Branson Tri-Lakes News reported. The judge ruled Table Rock Lake is not a navigable waterway under admiralty law and therefore the court lacked jurisdiction. The lake is not used for commercial shipping.

McKee, who was captain of the duck boat, was originally charged in 2018. Lanham was general manager for the boat operator, Ride the Ducks Branson. Baltzell was the operations manager. The judge’s ruling notes the defendants could still face state charges.

Stretch Duck 7 sank on July 19, 2018 when a powerful storm hit Table Rock Lake, causing high winds and rough water to develop in a very short time.

Tugboat sinks while under tow off coast of Delaware
A tugboat under tow by another vessel sank at the edge of Delaware Bay, apparently after getting swamped by a series of waves.

The 56-foot Miss Aida was being towed by the tugboat Dory when a wave broke Miss Aida’s windshield and ultimately led to the vessel’s sinking at about 1800 on Dec. 14, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The tug sank about 2 nautical miles north of Cape Henlopen State Park.

State authorities partnered with the University of Delaware to locate the sunken vessel using side-scan sonar. The Coast Guard monitored attempts to raise the vessel, a process hampered by wintry weather.

“The cooperation between maritime partners was key to the successful locating of the Miss Aida,” said Cmdr. Brett Workman, chief of response at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “Once the location of the vessel was determined, we could focus on overseeing the company’s salvage and recovery efforts.”

In late December, the Coast Guard listed Miss Aida as “sunk, not recoverable” on its Port State Information Exchange. The tug was built in 2002 as American Muscle and acquired by Eastern Barge Services of Syosset, N.Y., in 2012. The 76-foot Dory is operated by Greater New York Marine Transportation of Syosset.

Casualty flashback: December 1908
The steel-hulled freighter D.M. Clemson sank on Dec. 1, 1908 in Lake Superior with 24 people aboard. The cause has remained a mystery for more than a century and the wreck has never been found.

The 5-year-old ship, owned by Provident Steamboat Co., was carrying coal between Lorain, Ohio and Duluth, Minn., when it went down sometime on the night of Dec. 1. The 468-foot ship was last seen passing through the Soo Locks earlier that day.

Debris from the ship washed ashore across a wide expanse of the lake in the weeks after the sinking. The bodies of at least five crew also were recovered, at least one wearing a life jacket.

There are numerous theories about what happened. One suggests the vessel sustained structural damage roughly six weeks before when it struck a lighthouse pier in Ashtabula, Ohio. Another suggests the ship’s wooden hatch covers failed and water entered the cargo holds.

As many observers have pointed out, any information about the crew’s final hours likely went down with the ship.

By Professional Mariner Staff