Investigation of accident in which a fisherman died after colliding with a Coast Guard boat could take more than a year

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be the body that will determine what caused a Coast Guard cutter to hit a fishing boat with two crew members near the coast of Dorado on Monday, causing the death of one of the the fishermen, although they warned that the investigation could take more than a year.

The new day contacted the NTSB and via email they indicated that: “The NTSB, as the lead agency in the case, will conduct a safety investigation into what happened, why it happened, and make related recommendations to prevent a similar incident in the future.”

The agency added that the investigation may take a year or more to conclude.. “Once that is complete, the NTSB will do its own analysis and come to a separate probable cause from the Coast Guard.”

Amid questions surrounding the incident and consternation among the fishing community, Captain Jose Diaz, commander of the San Juan sector of the Coast Guard, went this Tuesday to the residence of the relatives of the brothers Samuel Rosario, 39 years old; and Carlos Rosario, 52 years old and fatal victim, to express his condolences.

“They are professional fishermen who were doing their job. We, the Coast Guard, are committed to saving lives and protecting the island and citizens, and accidents like this are not welcome, we feel very bad about what happenedDiaz said in an interview with The new day.

The family and friends of the injured, meanwhile, demanded justice.

To me, it’s gross negligence by the United States Coast Guard.“, he claimed Manuel Cordova, friend of the brothers. “I hope they get justice.”

The accident occurred around 2:00 pm on Monday afternoon when a Coast Guard team left San Juan for the La Mona Channel for routine patrolling. Díaz said he did not know the reasons that could have caused the collision, but he maintained that, according to the information that has been shared with him, the waves were between eight and 10 feet.

After the impact, he said, the two victims were put on the Coast Guard boat and taken to San Juan, where an ambulance transported Samuel to the Río Piedras Medical Center. Meanwhile, personnel from the Institute of Forensic Sciences (ICF) transferred Carlos’ body to the agency for autopsy.

“We are saving the evidence for when the NTSB investigators arrive,” Diaz said.

He announced that investigators from the NTSB, an agency independent of the government, should arrive on the island this Wednesday. Among the recovered material are blood samples taken from the personnel who were on duty at the time of the impact and the electronic report of the navigation and location systems that the 154-foot-long Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser has. “When we have a casually like this and there are people injured, it is very serious for us,” he said.

This is the cutter involved in the accident that killed a fisherman.
This is the cutter involved in the accident that killed a fisherman. (Coast Guard)

The ship is one of seven such vessels owned by the Coast Guard. She has capacity for 25 crew members, but Díaz could not specify how many people were on board at the time of the accident. “We always have one or two boats patrolling the La Mona channel because that is where the most loss of life is reported,” he explained.

Díaz maintained that, according to the report they have given him, the location and navigation systems of the rapid response ship were in operation. He added that, according to his experience, this type of technology is very effective in detecting steel vessels, but not in the case of wooden or fiberglass vessels, but he maintained that he did not know if this would have been the case..

“The system sends a wave, a waveand that is reflected and tells the radar that there is something, but the smaller the object, the less reflection there is,” he explained.

The boat in which the brothers fished was 23 feet long.

“A fishing boat of this size is visible. It was 2:00 pm and the sea was not bad. We will have to wait for what this investigation reflects, ”he said, for his part, Benedict Pintoformer Commissioner of Navigation of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER).

Pinto maintained that it is vital that the NTSB investigate every last detail of what happened and emphasized that each electronic instrument that the sophisticated Coast Guard ship has has redundancy. “There are many of us who are anxious about the situation. The sea is dangerous and if whoever should give us security in the sea makes it more dangerous, imagine how the users of the sea feel”, expressed Pinto, who continues to practice sailing recreationally.

Pinto described the fishermen brothers as “fajonos” and highly experienced. “The sport fishing nautical community is in mourning…there is tremendous sadness and anger. There are many, many questions.” he claimed.

The mayor of Vega Alta, Maria Vega Pagan, also regretted what happened and recalled that it was on the brothers’ boat that the traditional walk of the Virgen del Carmen took place in July. “The survivor is on medication to treat both physical and emotional pain. Despite the fact that he had the accident, the first thing he looked for was his brother… they are experiencing very painful moments, ”he pointed out.

Although these are irregular events, a similar incident, but without fatalities, occurred in 2014 about nine miles east-northeast of the island of Vieques. In that case, the crew members of the private boat jumped into the water before the impact.

Reporter Alex Figueroa contributed to this story.

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