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Coast Guardsman in fatal crash had been on cellphone

August 11, 2010 |  6:32 pm

Boy A Coast Guard crew member was using a cellphone -- either for a conversation or texting -- just before the collision on San Diego Bay that killed an 8-year-old boy and injured five other people, the National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday.

Although the cause of the collision between a Coast Guard cutter and a civilian craft has yet to be determined, the board called on the Coast Guard to adopt policies banning the use of cellphones and other wireless devices.

On the night of Dec. 20, during the annual Parade of Lights, a 33-foot Coast Guard cutter traveling at a high rate of speed smashed into a 24-foot Sea Ray with members of three families aboard. Anthony DeWeese from the Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood of San Diego was killed.

On July 1, four enlisted members of the Coast Guard were charged with criminal offenses ranging from involuntary manslaughter to dereliction of duty in the fatal incident. All four are set for an Article 32, the military equivalent of a pretrial hearing.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating two collisions involving Coast Guard craft and civilian boats in which Coast Guard personnel were using cellphones. The other incident occurred Dec. 5 in the harbor in Charleston, S.C.; five passengers aboard the civilian craft were injured.

"Accidents caused by distractions from wireless devices must cease," said board chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Lives are being unnecessarily put at risk and lost."

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Anthony DeWeese, 8

Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5