NTSB report: Pilot in deadly tug boat accident was on cell phone

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its report on last summer’s deadlyboat accident in Philadelphia, in which a barge being pushed by a tug boat collided with a disabled Duck boat on the Delaware River. Two students from Hungary — a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old — were killed in the tragic wreck.

At 2:37 p.m. on July 7, a barge struck a Duck boat, which had become disabled, killing the two students and plunging 35 other people into the river. Although the Duck boat made radio calls to warn the tug boat pushing the barge of the oncoming collision, those calls apparently went unheeded by the tug boat pilot.

In a statement the day of the fatal accident, the pilot, who was the ship’s mate, told investigators that he had not seen, heard or felt anything before he saw people in the water.

This week, the NTSB released a 4,400-page report on the boat accident. Although it does not draw conclusions about the cause of the wreck, it does reveal details that indicate the mate was on his cell phone at the time of the collision.

Report indicates negligence may have caused the fatal tug boat accident

According to the NTSB’s report, the mate told a lawyer for the tug boat company that, on the day of the accident, he had learned of a life-threatening medical emergency involving his young son. He made and received 21 calls on his personal cell phone between noon, when he took the wheel, and 2:37, when the deadly crash occurred.

Furthermore, the report says, the mate did not assign a lookout on the barge, which sat high in front of the tug boat.

The report did find that drugs and alcohol were not involved in the accident.

The parents of the two young Hungarians have filed wrongful death suits against the operators of the tug boat and the Duck boat, along with the City of Philadelphia, which owned the barge. A federal investigation is also underway to determine whether the boat accident was the result of criminal negligence.

The tug boat’s mate has been advised by his attorney not to speak to investigators. The attorney declined to comment on the NTSB’s report, saying that he had not had time to review it.

Source: Associated Press, “Tug pilot in duck boat crash was on cell,” March 7, 2010