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Two more trials in Coast Guard accident, officer pleads guilty

It's been about a month since our blog last covered the case of an 8-year-old California boy killed in a December 2009 boating accident with a Coast Guard patrol vehicle. On the night of the accident, the young boy and his family were on their boat in the San Diego Bay enjoying the annual Christmas-time Parade of Lights. The boating accident occurred as a Coast Guard vehicle struck the family's vessel, killing the 8-year-old victim and injuring five others.

In the months following the accident, the family of the deceased boy filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the five Coast Guard officers aboard the vessel, several of which have already received a Military Court verdict. Recently, Military Court officials decided the fates of two of the lawsuits biggest targets, the driver of the boat and the senior officer aboard the vehicle.

The vessel's senior officer pled guilty to dereliction of duty, admitting that his negligence played a role in causing the accident. His verdict was accompanied by a variety of punishments, including a pay reduction, confinement to the military base, and losing his rank as Petty Officer 2nd Class. The defendant has since requested a military discharge, thereby ending his career with the Coast Guard.

The driver of the boat was also convicted of dereliction of duty and received the same punishments as the vehicle's ranking officer.

The resolution of these two cases represents the last of the criminal charges brought against the Coast Guard members involved in the fatal boating accident. Originally, the victim's family charged the officers with negligent homicide and assault, among other serious offenses, yet the accusations were not upheld.

These verdicts do not represent the end of the family's case however, and both the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are still trying to establish exactly what happened that fatal night.

Source: LA Times, "Coast Guard petty officer pleads guilty in San Diego Bay crash that killed boy." 29 March 2011

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