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Coast Guard pilot in fatal San Diego collision faces homicide charges

As part of our blog, we have been following the trial surrounding a fatal boating accident which killed an 8-year-old boy. The young boy died after a Coast Guard vehicle collided with his family's boat during a watercraft parade in 2009. The boy's family filed a lawsuit against the five Coast Guard members on board the vessel, which has slowly been working its way through military court.

Several of the Coast Guard members have already faced trial for their individual roles in the fatal boating accident, and now the prosecution is turning its attention towards the servicemember who was driving the boat during the collision. The driver is facing some of the most serious charges filed against any of the defendants, including involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide.

Earlier, the driver refused a plea bargain which would have required him to serve only one year of jail time. If convicted on all charges, the defendant now faces a significantly greater sentence.

The boat driver's defense is based on the claim that the Coast Guard vehicle's blind spot caused the collision-not careless driving. The defendant's claim is supported by a report from the National Transportation Safety Board which stated that the patrol boat model the defendant was operating the night of the crash does have a significant blind spot issue and doesn't pass visibility standards as defined by the organization.

However, the plaintiff's suit accuses the pilot of speeding and failing to ensure that he had appointed an appropriate number of lookouts. These charges indicate that, even if the driver's visibility was limited by a blind spot, he should have compensated for that limitation by exercising extra caution.

We will continue to keep you updated on future developments as this case works its way through the courts.

Source: SignOn San Diego, "Coast Guard crewman stands trial for boy's death." Jeanette Steele, 6 March 2011.

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