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September 30, 2009

Federal hearing focuses on search for F/V Patriot

Click here to read Rear Admiral Brice-O'Hara's statement

A congressional subcommittee today begins hearings into the efficacy of Coast Guard search and rescue missions, and focused on failures highlighted in response to the sinking fishing vessel Patriot.

The Gloucester boat was lost with its family crew of two 14 miles from port last January.

The circumstances of the tragedy remain uncertain, the subject of a Coast Guard investigation and litigation by the crew's family centered on a tug pulling a barge — the only known vessel that passed near the Patriot in its final minutes.

The hearing by the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be webcast. To view the hearing — which begins at 10 a.m. from the Capitol — go to the House committee Web site and click on the yellow "view Web cast" block.

A background paper released yesterday identified two cases that will be examined in detail by the subcommittee.

One is the search and rescue response to the disappearance of the Patriot, which sank during an overnight fishing trip to Middle Bank on Jan. 2 and 3. A theme of the Coast Guard's review of the case cited inexperienced personnel in key roles during the workup to a call for search and rescue.

The second case to be studied involves a collision between a motor vessel and a fishing vessel outside San Fransisco Bay in 2007. A confluence of errors and decisions called off search and rescue on the assumption that the collision did not occur; it did, and one person who had been on the fishing boat died.

The failures in the uncertain and delayed response to the distress of the Patriot were examined and reported on by the Coast Guard last June.

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