Crew boats are such relative simple marine equipment that it appears that the possibility of accidents unrelated to machinery should be very remote.
The following pilot seat accident is a sample of unpredictable accidents:
The accident took place about 10:45 a.m., 10 miles southwest of the Matagorda Jetties in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Captain's estimation, the vessel was navigating at a cruising speed of about 16 ½ knots, heading south in 5 to 7 foot quartering seas. The winds were out of the southeast blowing 15 to 25 MPH and gusty, but the environmental conditions were not bad enough to justify a reduction in the throttle. It should be noted that the weather service report indicates milder winds and waves than the winds and waves estimated by the captain.
The crew boat had the following dimensions: Length: 62.5 feet, Beam: 18 feet, and Depth: 9.2 feet.
The captain was sitting in the captain's chair holding with both hands onto the steering wheel, with his feet interlocked inside the footrest attached to the pedestal of the chair, to assist him in maintaining his equilibrium as the vessel was pitching and rolling.
Suddenly, without any indication that a failure was about to occur, at the time that the vessel rolled to port, the seat portion of the chair broke away and became loose from the pedestal and slider. As the chair and the captain were falling, the captain's head hit the metal structures of the port side of the wheelhouse and then landed with his left shoulder and body on the floor of the wheelhouse, while his feet were still interlocked with the footrest, resulting in the captain sustaining very serious injuries.
There were 2 other people on board, the mate and a passenger, who were sitting in the crew area. When they heard the noise of the chair and the captain crashing to the floor, they ran to the pilothouse and pulled the throttles back and assisted the captain, who was in pain and dazed, to free his left foot from the footrest on the pedestal.
The boat was returned to port and the captain was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Some time before the accident, the spider of the pilot's chair was broken and the captain requested the port captain to replace the pilot's chair.
The pilot's chair was replaced by a fighting chair (fishing chair), which was uncomfortable to use it as a helmsman's chair. Hence, the crew of the boat replaced the seat portion of the fighting chair with the seat portion of the pilot's chair being used before the installation of the fighting chair. The seat installed by the crew was involved in the accident under consideration.
Hector Pazos, is a Naval Architect, Marine Engineer and a Registered Mechanical Engineer and has been engaged in Accident Investigation/Reconstruction for more than 40 years. He has been retained as an Expert Witness in over 1,200 Maritime cases, related to both commercial vessels and pleasure crafts, for both defense and plaintiff.
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