The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) points the finger at operator cell phone use in its report on the cause of a double fatal crash between a tourist boat and a barge one year ago.
The investigation revealed the mate operating a tugboat that was towing the barge was distracted by his repeated use of a cell phone and laptop computer to communicate with his relatives about a family emergency.
On July 7, 2010, the empty 250-foot-long barge being towed alongside the tugboat collided with the anchored 33-foot amphibious Ride the Ducks boat. The Duck boat was anchored due to engine failure. Two Duck boat passengers were fatally injured, and 26 others suffered minor injuries. The Duck boat sank in the Delaware River near Philadelphia.
The NTSB report also notes that the Duck boat deckhand’s personal use of his cell phone to send text messages while he was on the bow of the vessel distracted him from effectively performing his duty as a lookout.
“Regardless of the reason, it’s not OK to multi-task while operating a vehicle — whether it’s calling, texting or surfing the web,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.
As part of its report, the NTSB has recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard regulate the use of non-business cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crew members in safety-critical positions.
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