PORTLAND – The Fire Department will issue a new policy Wednesday that will severely restrict civilian rides aboard the city’s fireboat.

The rules presented Tuesday night to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee would not have allowed the ride by a dozen friends and family members of a fire captain on Oct. 15, when the fireboat hit an underwater object, causing nearly $40,000 worth of damage to the City of Portland IV.

The presence of the civilians came to light only because the accident led to an investigation by Fire Chief Fred LaMontague.

The two fire officials aboard the boat – firefighter Joseph Murphy and Capt. Chiristopher Goodall – were suspended for failing to follow procedures before the accident, which LaMontagne said was avoidable. They were not disciplined for having civilians aboard because the department had no policy against that.

The new rules would allow the fireboat to transport family members accompanying patients; city employees on Portland’s islands who become sick during the middle of their shift; and employees who need boat transport for training. All other civilian transport by the fireboat will have to be approved by the city manager and must coincide with a scheduled trip.

The committee’s look at city policies on the fireboat failed to reveal any new facts about the Oct. 15  trip because city lawyers said releasing any information about the accident and its aftermath would violate state laws and union contracts. Only when all potential appeals have been exhausted will the city release a report on the accident, and city lawyers said that could take as long as a year.

At the meeting, City Manager Mark Rees said he failed to use “common sense” when he was told about the accident the night it occurred and he failed to notify councilors or the public. The incident came to light five days later after inquiries by The Portland Press Herald.