- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SAN DIEGO | Alan DeWeese says his lights were on when a Coast Guard boat rammed his 26-foot Sea Ray, killing his 8-year-old son and injuring five others aboard.

The lights are just one reason witnesses and survivors are struggling to understand why the Coast Guard boat crashed into the packed recreational boat Sunday night at the 38th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, a popular showcase for boats decked in Christmas lights.

Mr. DeWeese had borrowed his father’s boat and invited two other families to watch the parade on its five-mile route past downtown skyscrapers and the famed Coronado Bridge. The 33-foot Coast Guard patrol boat, meanwhile, was responding to a report of a grounded vessel.

“It seemed like it was going full speed when it hit,” said Barbara Maloney, who watched from her sixth-floor hotel room. “We didn’t notice them slow down at all. I assume they didn’t see it.”

The Coast Guard has not yet provided answers. It expressed condolences to the DeWeese family Monday and said three probes were under way. The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to San Diego, and the Coast Guard and San Diego Harbor Police also are investigating.

“We look forward to discovering what the facts were,” Capt. Thomas Farris, commander of the Coast Guard’s San Diego sector, told reporters Monday.

There were 13 people aboard the DeWeese boat Sunday. Anthony Cole DeWeese, 8, died in the crash. Two other children were injured and taken to Rady Children’s Hospital, and three adults were taken to the University of California’s San Diego Medical Center, fire department spokesman Maurice Luque said.

None of the five people on the Coast Guard boat were injured.

Bob Furry was watching from his hotel room when he said he saw a boat streak across the bay with a flashing blue light.

“We said, ‘Jeez, it’s going really fast.’ We thought it was some kind of hot-dogger,” he said.

Mr. DeWeese turned around, but it was too late. He estimates the Coast Guard boat was moving at 35 mph to 45 mph and that he was going no faster than 3 1/2 mph.

“He came up so fast I didn’t have time to react,” Mr. DeWeese said.

During the parade in San Diego on Sunday, boaters festooned their decks with Christmas lights. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Christmas at the Zoo,” some participants dressed up as giraffes and pandas.

There were about 80 boats in this year’s parade, from a 12-foot canoe to a 157-foot yacht.

The parade drew about 80,000 people on Dec. 13 and again Sunday, said Ron Sheehan, vice chairman.

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