What Caused Navy Patrol Boat and Fire Boat Accidents in Charleston this Weekend?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Although the heat has been on the cruise industry for a few months now following the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire accident and subsequent slew of maritime disasters, attention has been diverted from the industry and has actually turned to the U.S. Navy and local firefighters after two weekend boating accidents in Charleston, South Carolina have sparked several questions from maritime authorities.

Investigators are still trying to piece together what caused a Navy patrol boat to crash into a jetty in the Charleston harbor Saturday night and why a Charleston fire boat that was on its way to help the Navy crew also hit something in the water, disabling the vessel.

Three Navy crewmembers had to be hospitalized following the boating accident, but so far, the organization isn’t saying much about what could have caused the strange crash. What we know thus far is that a 34-foot Navy patrol fire boat struck the harbor’s south jetty just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, setting the events in motion.

There were five sailors onboard the vessel at the time of the accident and three sustained injuries, the extent of which are yet unknown, after the boat took on water. A Coast Guard helicopter airlifted one of the injured crewmembers to Medical University Hospital, while Coast Guard crews transported the other two injured seamen via watercraft.


Firefighters from Charleston Fire Department’s Engine 111 were also dispatched to the maritime accident scene to help the injured sailors. But about 30 minutes later, the firefighters were involved in their own boating accident.

The 36-foot fire boat struck something in the water, causing it to become disabled and to take on water. The fire boat was eventually towed to shore in downtown. None of the crewmembers from the Charleston Fire Department’s Engine 111 were hurt. The fire vessel was escorted back to its launch site shortly after the accident.

The vessel has now been placed in dry dock to assess the damage and figure out what exactly it hit. This boat accident marks the second time that the $850,000 vessel, named the Louis Behrens, has been taken out of service for repairs since being christened in November. An incident in January involving an electronics malfunction caused the boat to be placed in dry dock.

This boating accident just goes to show that no one is immune from the dangers the open waters have to offer. It is important for all boaters to remember that they should always abide by proper maritime law and stay as safe as possible while out at sea.

Accidents can happen for a plethora of reasons, including another boater’s
negligence, speeding, unfavorable weather conditions, or intoxicated pilots. There are strict maritime laws that protect against boating under the influence, piloting a vessel over the suggested speed limit and other offenses, but not everyone abides by them. Boating accidents are increasing with each passing year, and the number of boating accident fatalities is skyrocketing.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics report, the number of fatal boat accidents increased from 2010 to 2011. Many of these incidents were directly related to a lack of safety regulations and a lack of boater awareness of these regulations.

The report revealed that there were 672 boating accident fatalities in 2011, but the following year, the figure grew to 758 deaths, representing a staggering 12.8 percent increase in the number of boating accident fatalities.

Seventy percent of the deaths were the result of drowning, but the worst part about the accidents is the fact that 84 percent of victims were not wearing life jackets.

When those onboard a vessel are injured, especially if a crash is caused by someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions, victims have a right to turn to a boat accident lawyer for assistance in filing a claim and protecting their rights. However, by following simple steps, such as having a designated boater, keeping safety gear onboard including flashlights and batteries and always wearing life jackets, boaters can protect themselves from serious injuries in the event an accident does occur.

Photo Credit: Charleston fire boat – postandcourier.com