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NTSB Says SD Coast Guard Crew Members Were On Cell Phones At Time Of Bay Crash

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Aired 8/12/10

Federal investigators said San Diego Coast Guard crew members were using cell phones when they crashed into a pleasure boat in December. National Transportation Safety Board officials want the Coast Guard to develop a more thorough cell phone policy to prevent future accidents.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said their investigation revealed Coast Guard crew members were texting or talking on cell phones when they crashed into a pleasure boat carrying 13 people just before the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights on December 20, 2009. The crash killed 8-year-old Anthony DeWeese and injured four others.

NTSB is urging the Coast Guard to develop a more thorough cell phone policy to prevent future accidents.

"The use of wireless communications devices while operating vehicles in any mode of transportation poses an unacceptable distraction," NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman said.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil said the Coast Guard already developed and implemented a cell phone policy on July 16 that prohibits cell phone use.

"I think it’s important for everybody to understand we take safety very seriously," he said. "Our issuance of the policy in July is evidence of that concern. We want to ensure that people know that we look at all of our activities and are constantly continuing to improve and learn upon past events," said O'Neil.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the Coast Guard's policy is too vague.

"Under what circumstances would a boat operator allow permission for the lookouts to use a cell phone? Are there any particular conditions or is it simply up to the discretion of the operator? We think there should be more specific guidelines for that policy," said Knudson.

The Coast Guard filed criminal charges against the four crew members on July 1, including negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

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