Coast Guard suspends Virginia mariner’s license for negligence

Coast Guard District 5 NewsNORFOLK, Va. — Coast Guard officials suspended the license of the operator of a commercial assistance towing vessel Monday who was involved in a fatal boating collision last October.

The collision occurred Oct. 17, 2010, when the operator aboard the commercial Sea Tow vessel passed underneath the James River Bridge and upon exiting, collided with a recreational fishing boat.

Lance Brewer, 13, of Gloucester, Va., a passenger aboard the fishing boat, lost his life as a result of the collision.

The Coast Guard’s investigation into the incident found that neither operator maintained a proper lookout or operated their vessels at a safe speed. As part of a settlement agreement approved by an administrative law judge Monday, Wayne A. Espinoza, of Virginia Beach, Va., the operator of the Sea Tow vessel, has agreed to a 36-month suspension of his license and will attend a Coast Guard approved training course.

“The simple precaution of reducing speed when operating in the vicinity of the James River Bridge could have prevented this tragic accident,” said Cmdr. Jerry Barnes, the chief of the prevention department at Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. “Mr. Espinoza failed to exercise the standard of care expected of a licensed operator and the due caution required under the navigational circumstances. It is my hope that this suspension will serve as a reminder to all licensed operators to maintain a safe speed and be ever vigilant.”

Espinoza and Phillip E. Brewer, of Newport News, Va., the operator of the fishing boat, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter by the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and await trial.

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