Coast Guard releases investigation report on Coast Guard Cutter Waesche fatality

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ALAMEDA, Calif. – The U.S. Coast Guard has released today the Major Incident Investigation (MII) Report into the incident aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, which resulted in the death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Obendorf.

Obendorf was a crewmember aboard the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Waesche.  He died in a Seattle hospital Dec. 18, 2013, as a result of injuries he sustained during search and rescue operations near Amak Island, Alaska, Nov. 11, 2013.

The report identifies causal and contributing factors, including equipment failure, placement of small boat personnel and prevailing weather conditions.

The investigation found that a capture system designed to automatically secure the small boat into the stern during recovery operations did not function as designed most of the time.  To overcome this deficiency, a crew member, Petty Officer Obendorf in this case, was posted in front of the small boat center console to manually assist the mechanism during recovery operations.  During this evolution, a wave struck the stern of the small boat as it was recovering, pinning Petty Officer Obendorf between the capture mechanism and the small boat console.

“Petty Officer Obendorf and his family are and will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers,” said Vice Adm. Paul K. Zukunft, Pacific Area Commander. “From this tragedy, we are reminded of the harsh operating environment in which the Coast Guard serves our nation and mariners in distress, and we have re-doubled our efforts in remaining eternally vigilant.”

The MII Report is publically available online in the Coast Guard’s FOIA reading room.   http://www.uscg.mil/foia/FOIA_Library.asp.

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2 Comments

  1. Russ Burress, BMC, USCG, (ret.) says:

    While it is true we operate in a harsh enviroment and as the former deck supervisor aboard the CGC Munro, I ensured the hazards of launching and recovering our boats and helicppter was never taken lightly or routinely. I am disturbed the capture system was aparently a known problem but with our typical can do attitude it took a death to bring it to the attention of Headquarters. Many people failed in protecting this young mans life and I hope that making do when something needs fixing never happens again!

  2. I agree with Chief Burress on this one. “To overcome this deficiency, a crew member, Petty Officer Obendorf in this case, was posted in front of the small boat center console to manually assist the mechanism during recovery operations.”

    I know that hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t want to be a Monday morning quarterback, but “overcoming a deficiency” instead of “correcting a deficiency” seems to be the problem here.