January 15, 2013

Portland fireboat going 14 knots before crash

The city's report to the Coast Guard on the 2011 incident also says the vessel was in an area with known hazards.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The city's fireboat was traveling at 14 knots through an area of Casco Bay with known hazards when it hit an underwater object near Fort Gorges in 2011, sustaining more than $50,000 worth of damage.

click image to enlarge

The MV City of Portland IV fire boat in Portland on October 19, 2011. The city's fireboat was traveling at 14 knots through an area of Casco Bay with known hazards when it hit an underwater object near Fort Gorges in 201x1, sustaining more than $50,000 worth of damage.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Related Documents

PDF: U.S. Coast Guard accident report

The City of Portland IV passed through the area with shallow ledges and a marked shipwreck at roughly 16 mph about two hours before low tide on the evening of Oct. 15, 2011, the city told the Coast Guard in its report on the accident.

The report, compiled by deputy fire chief David Pendleton, was released in response to a Freedom of Access request filed by the Portland Press Herald after city officials refused to disclose details about the accident.

Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne, who retired last spring, investigated the incident, but the city will not release that document.

The city's report to the Coast Guard was filed a week after the accident, even though Coast Guard guidelines require immediate reporting of marine accidents.

Lt. Nick Barrow, spokesman for the Coast Guard in South Portland, said Monday that he could not comment on the city's or the Coast Guard's investigation.

He did address general navigation practices, saying there is no enforceable speed limit outside the "No Wake" zone in Portland Harbor, but mariners should use common sense and travel at safe speeds. The shipwreck is marked on navigational charts.

"I believe its location is well known," Barrow said.

City officials have refused to say specifically what the fireboat hit, describing it only as a "marked hazard."

They also won't say how fast the boat was going at the time of the accident or what the two-member crew and 12 civilian passengers were doing when the accident occurred.

Fire Capt. Christopher Goodall and firefighter Joseph Murphy were suspended for their roles in the accident.

They successfully appealed their suspensions with the help of their union, Local 740 of the International Association of Firefighters. An arbitrator reduced their suspensions and told the city to pay more than $1,100 in back wages to the men.

Goodall, who invited friends and family members aboard and was responsible as the boat's lookout, received $878 in back wages.

The arbitrator found that the fireboat should not have left the marked "Destroyer Channel," and when it did leave the channel, the pilot -- Murphy -- should have navigated around "marked hazards in a safe manner."

The captain/engineer -- Goodall -- should have alerted the pilot to the marked hazards, but failed to do so and should have been more aware of his surroundings, the arbitrator found.

According to the city's accident report filed with the Coast Guard, the fireboat left the Maine State Pier at 5 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2011, shortly before sunset, on what the city describes as a training run.

The boat went up the Fore River and under the Casco Bay Bridge. It turned around and then passed Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland, before heading to Peaks Island.

After passing Peaks Island at 5 knots, the 65-foot-long, 38-ton fireboat turned toward Fort Gorges and accelerated to 14 knots – roughly 16 mph – when it entered a shallow area between Fort Gorges and Little Diamond Island around 5:55 p.m.

Shortly after entering the area, the boat hit an object. The port shaft, strut prop and rudder were damaged.

Data from the fireboat's instruments show that the boat, which draws 4 feet 2 inches of water, passed directly over the shipwreck.

After passing over the wreck, in about 8.9 feet of water, the fireboat slowed to 7 knots before returning to the harbor under its own power. It reached the Maine State Pier at 6:18 p.m.

(Continued on page 2)

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