December 21, 2009 – An 8-year-old boy was killed and five people were injured when a Coast Guard vessel responding to an emergency call struck a pleasure boat during the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights Sunday night.
The 33-foot Coast Guard vessel hit the civilian boat, which had 13 people on board, about 6 p.m. near Harbor Island, said Jetta Disco, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.
“We heard them saying ‘Watch out’ and ‘Oh my God,’ ” said Breck Schoch, an eyewitness. “They had half a second warning before the thing hit.”
The boy killed in a boat crash was identified as Anthony Cole DeWeese of Rancho Peñasquitos, Anthony was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he died about an hour after the accident. He had gone to the boat parade with his family, said his grandmother, Sandra DeWeese of Del Mar.
“It’s a terrible, senseless killing,” she said.
The boy’s father, Alan DeWeese, told The Associated Press the group had just finished watching the fireworks aboard the family’s 26-foot Sea Ray and was waiting for the boat parade to begin when he heard the Coast Guard boat speeding from behind at an estimated 30 to 40 knots.
He said he tried to steer out of the way but couldn’t.
“I thought he was going to turn at some point,” Alan DeWeese said. “He came up so fast, I didn’t have time to react.”
Officials said the Coast Guard vessel was responding to an emergency call for a grounded boat. Witnesses said it was traveling fast with its lights on at the time of the collision.
No one was thrown into the water, Schoch said, and both boats later made it to shore under their own power.
Anthony was one of five injured people taken to the dock behind the Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. In addition to Anthony, two other children were injured, although paramedics classified those injuries as minor, Luque said. The children were taken to Children’s Hospital.
Two adults suffered “major traumas” and were taken to UCSD Medical Center. A third adult was taken to Harbor Island, where paramedics performed CPR before he was transferred by ambulance to UCSD Medical Center.
“We’ve got so many friends and family that were injured,” Alan DeWeese told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The accident occurred during one of San Diego’s longest-running and highest-profile holiday events. More than 80,000 people had been expected to watch the 38th annual procession of lighted boats from anchored vessels and from the shore.
The Coast Guard will conduct an investigation of the crash, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry Dunphy, a Coast Guard spokesman. He also said the National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team from the East Coast to conduct its own investigation.
The thoughts and prayers of many Coast Guard personnel were with those affected by this tragic incident, the local commander said in a statement.
“We, along with other agencies: the San Diego Fire Department, the San Diego Harbor Police and the NTSB will conduct a thorough investigation to try to determine what led to this tragedy and what can be done to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Capt. Tom Farris, San Diego sector commander, said in a statement.
Eyewitness Sandy Fenten was sitting on the Harbor Island shoreline near The Boathouse restaurant when she saw a vessel with its emergency lights flashing speeding on the bay toward downtown San Diego. The boat then turned around and headed back toward Shelter Island when it crashed into the pleasure boat.
“All of a sudden, you heard this tremendous thud or crash,” Fenten said. “It was going really fast and there were a lot of boats anchored in that area,”
Schoch, who was on the bay with his own boat and a passenger, said he went to to the area to help. Schoch said he used a flashlight to flag down a Sea Tow boat and helped some of the injured people get on it. He said the captain of the damaged pleasure boat kept asking: “How is my son? How is my son?”
The boat was among a dozen anchored on the bay to view the parade. Authorities could not immediately confirm if the boat was moving or anchored at the time of the accident. The parade was delayed for some time while authorities helped the injured.
The parade route started near Shelter Island and went around the bay before the vessels turned around at the San Diego-Coronado Bridge before reaching the finish line near the Coronado Ferry Landing.
Initial reports indicate that the five crew members on the Coast Guard vessel were not hurt, Disco said. The crew members about the 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Haddock, which was in the bay for the parade, helped treat some of the injured and took some of them to shore, she said.
The damaged pleasure boat was in dry dock Monday at a boatyard on Shelter Island. While damage to the hull was not immediately visible, it appeared that the boat’s canopy was torn off and hanging to one side.
The Associated Press and San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Karen Kucher contributed to this report.