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Exuma Boat Blast ‘Purely An Accident’

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

FOUR C’s Adventures has returned more than $20,000 in cancelled bookings since it was ordered to cease operations following a deadly explosion on its tour boat in Exuma, The Tribune was told.

Attorney Elliot Lockhart, QC, said his client, Four C’s owner Clayton Patterson Smith, faced possible criminal charges and civil litigation but vowed he would defend his position that the fatal incident was a “purely unfortunate accident”.

However, Mr Lockhart also insisted yesterday based on his investigations on the island and with the boat’s captain, he strongly believes there is a possibility the boat may have been sabotaged.

“I spoke one on one with the captain of that boat,” Mr Lockhart said. “I can only conclude if this is not where he struck something in the water, then somebody sabotaged this boat.

“Patterson Smith developed an entire business of going to see the (swimming) pigs, and the Exuma community and certain outside entities are now tapped into that. Boats are going everyday but it was Patterson Smith’s brain child. He came out of jail in Cuba, came home, designed this business. He is responsible for building his own vessels. Pat built those boats and designed his business and this is the first incident, he’s had many, many successful runs. This is a purely unfortunate accident.”

Mr Lockhart continued: “They shut down Pat’s business. Up to today, he has returned an excess of $20k because other operators can’t handle all of his clientele.”

Four C’s, the island’s largest tour operator, was issued a cease and desist order on Sunday, mandating the company suspend operations pending results of an investigation.

The accident killed one American woman, caused her husband to have a leg amputated and caused another passenger to lose both of her legs and injured nine other people on Saturday.

Acting Port Controller Commander Raymond King confirmed during a press conference on Monday that no engine on the vessel exploded despite initial reports from the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

Yesterday, Mr Lockhart said the blaze melted the boat’s metal like candle wax, adding the damaged site appeared to have imploded from the inside out.

“The boat had all inspections, plus insurance, plus operations with respect to that boat and others he built, none of them ever exhibited any problems,” the attorney said. “Two minutes into the half day trip, (there was an explosion). Having seen that boat, it appeared like a candle wax melting, the fire melted the aluminium like candle wax.

“I suspect because of the jealousy going around among operators, the only explanation that I have been able to come up with, that the builder has been able to come up with, and others that know about boats and building boats, is that someone put some kind of explosive device on boat and blew a hole. In an area where there is no gas tanks, no electric wires, it blew from the bow.

“The captain told me the floor peeled up like when you open a can of sardines and he immediately sought to account for all souls,” Mr Lockhart added. “They went back after the mother said her child was missing, and the child was trapped and critically injured. They had adequate life jackets, adequate fire fighting equipment, and I have in my possession a report from the marine surveyor before it was commissioned that it was in good order.

“There was no engine fire, the engine caught after the boat burned from front to back. Mr Patterson had his son, less than 9 years old on that boat, you think he would be in a situation to cause harm and his son is on the boat?

“It has to be sabotage,” Mr Lockhart added, “and if it’s not then a freak accident.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year ago

In fact, it was a most serious incident in waiting thanks to the combined gross negligence of Clayton Smith and the Bahamian government. It is indeed fitting that Smith will now be fleeced by Lockhart QC for every penny he ever worked for and saved. But major financial restitution, in addition to reimbursement/settlement of hospital and surgeons' bills, etc., both locally and abroad, will also need to be made by the Bahamian government. We should of course also expect a serious fall off in tourist visitors to the Exumas for quite sometime to come. I suspect Turnquest has been overheard saying that with what this incident is going to cost the Bahamian government, he wishes VAT had been increased to 15% rather than 12%.

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realfreethinker 1 year ago

It's kind of unusual for the company's lawyer to be making such comments before the investigation has even really begun.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year ago

They should know by now exactly what caused it. Shouldn't take more than an hour to determine the cause. They really need to hurry up with this.

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That_cat_D 1 year ago

I am quite sure this is an accident. Fuel leaked into the bilge and the float switch ignited the fuel. Not much u can do in this situation.

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msmuffett 1 year ago

Black smoke equals burning fuel. Boat safety lesson no.1. The bahamaspress said he was in jail in Cuba for drugs. They also said he was uninsured wonder who is telling the truth. Petrol fueled boats explode because vaporised fuel spark from bilge pump bilge fans and lack of sniffer system. Is said builder a marine architect? Did said boat have CE? https://www.nmma.org/certification/ce...">https://www.nmma.org/certification/ce.... ifnot why not? What certifications did it Have? I have never read such legalese gobblygook in my entire life.

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msmuffett 1 year ago

Carry passengers for hire requires special considerations and equipment . Anyone can call them self a surveyor there is no licensing only memberships to organisations. A boat built in the US of that type with all the necessary safety precautions would cost upwards of 500k Any ideas why he chose to build himself? I see the local transport minister wants to up the cost of Americans bring their boats. Why doesn’t he concentrate on putting effort into making sure charter boats are safe instead of protecting the homies.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year ago

Msmuffet Bahamas Press is always wrong. That guy just sits down and makes stuff up...

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msmuffett 1 year ago

Her is another petrol aged boat fire see any resemblance https://www.boatus.org/findings/55/">https://www.boatus.org/findings/55/ Was this sabotage?

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BMW 1 year ago

Here you have a lawyer conducting an investigation into an explosion on a boat ? Give me a break, another question is how does the government become responsible. To me the responsible party is the CAPTAIN plain and simple. Both of them should be arrested. Sabotage my ass ducking responsibility. Something that happens all to often.

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BahamaPundit 1 year ago

I don't think anyone really cares what the lawyer or the boat owner have to say in defense of themselves. All we want to know is whether or not the boat owner had the required personal injury insurance. Insurance is hinted at in the article, but this could just be in reference to damage or theft to the boat. Can anyone clarify this?

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BahamaPundit 1 year ago

RE BMW you are correct. The Government is not liable at law to pay in this matter. However, there will likely be huge consequences for our country if the injured Americans are not compensated for their loss, should the boat owner not have personal injury insurance. In order to avoid those consequences and international condemnation, the Government would pay the costs that should have been covered by the boat owner's insurance.

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realfreethinker 1 year ago

You must be kidding. Not one penny of tax payers money should go to paying for anything

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themessenger 1 year ago

You and Elliot must be drinking the same cool-aid. Why should the Bahamian taxpayers be saddled with paying for a huge law suit because Mr. Smith & Co neglected to have personal liability insurance which should be mandatory for anyone in that business? I guess the next step will be for the taxpayers to compensate those people in Andros because their relatives decided to fly Hacker Airlines instead of Bahamasair.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year ago

The Bahamas cannot be advertising itself as a major tourist destination, especially within the U.S., without having some responsibility for putting in place, maintaining and enforcing even the most basic regulations necessary to help ensure the safety of the visitors we invite (entice) to our shores. Trust me, this unfortunate incident that was in the waiting is going to cost us Bahamian taxpayers big time. Our incompetent government is costing all of us hardworking and struggling taxpayers in more ways than we care to think.

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ashley14 1 year ago

I smell a cover up! Let's pretend like boats are routinely serviced and regulations enforced! They weren't 30 years either. I don't know how qualified the operators are? I know one that wasn't to be trusted. Let sleeping dogs lie.

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sheeprunner12 1 year ago

QC Lockhart is trying to pull a stunt like the porn star's lawyer is doing against Trump ..... smh

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John 1 year ago

No report yet on the cause of the downed plane en route from Andros to Nassau or vice versa. But if the operator of this boat feels his boat was tampered with, he should bring in his own investigators to do an investigation. From the hostility demonstrated towards this man, there may be someone out there with screws loose enough to loosen some of the screws on his boat or cut a fuel line. Bilge pumps are designed to come on when they are submerged in water so even if there is a spark it doesn’t get to vaporized fuel. And if you don’t suspect there is a fuel leak on your boat that has been operating fine the day before, there will be no reason to suspect any unless there is a strong odor of fuel present. Outboard engines are designed to keep both fuel and combustion away from the boat and greatly reduce chances of incidents like this happening. And Especially the severe injuries to persons and the loss of life.

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Sickened 1 year ago

"Bilge pumps are designed to come on when they are submerged in water so even if there is a spark it doesn’t get to vaporized fuel." Not 100% accurate. The electrical lines/connections to the bilge pumps are all above the water level in the bilge, only the float switch and pump intake would be below that water line if the boat was taking on water or had a fuel leak.

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John 1 year ago

The electrical lines may be above water, but they are also hermetically sealed (if installed properly) to prevent corrosion and to contain any spark that may occur in the line. Not claiming to be an expert but it is also unusual to get a high build-up of fuel in the bilge of a boat operating on outboard engines...and then to not detect the odor from the fumes.

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hrysippus 1 year ago

Jonh, uou display an arrogant ignorance of boats. Bilge pumps have a separate float valve switch. Any set of wires to the bilge pump or the switch can chafe and spark if not properly insulated and wrapped with anti-chaffing. Many boats are built with a double hull, fuel leaking into the double hull would not necessarily be smelt on deck. I have been on a boat that caught fire from shorted electrical wires and it happens very fast with no warning, this boat that I was on was diesel powered and we put the fire out quickly with the fire extinguishers mounted in the right places. Sabotage is a laughable idea or so I hope. What sick mind would think it was a good idea to burn a boat load of tourists to death. I know that some Bahamians seem to hate people of other races but this would surely be a step too far?

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themessenger 1 year ago

Don't waste your breath muh brudda, you ain know John is one a da worlds leading conspiracy theorists and authorities on racism?

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sucteeth 1 year ago

Duh!! liquids are always heavier than air.. aluminum boat built in the back yard explains it all. Aluminum is brittle and tends to crack easily. vibration and rough waves crack the hull and thus fuel tank as well as electrolysis is deadly for aluminum boats. fact is fuel tank was cracked for a while and went unattended that caused this travesty. owner too worried about money than repairing his boat. how many people knew about this leak and did nothing..

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realitycheck242 1 year ago

This incident highlights the need for annual boat inspections in the Bahamas by qualified individuals. Peoples lives are at sake. We cant afford a repeat of this incident. The government should appoint qualified boat inspectors who can travel to every inhabited island on a annual rotating schedule to inspect all boats. Local government and family island commissioners can be made aware of inspection dates for their various islands and would be responsible for notifying the boat owners. Boats without a valid sticker should remain docked or bought ashore.

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alfalfa 1 year ago

What other comments could we expect from a lawyer? Their principals went out the window when they passed the bar exam and realized how much money is to be made. Their concern is not guilt or fault. It is finance.

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Chucky 1 year ago

people should be careful calling for annual boat inspections.

The government doesn't do its jobs now, what makes anyone think they can manage any additional chores.

What we need is responsible people who not only are educated and knowledgeable about the industry standards, but also who are willing to utilize best practices and proper maintenance.

Government can't do what it's doing now, much less legislate the stupidity out of the populous, and the last thing we need is more rules to follow

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sheeprunner12 1 year ago

Start with the mailboats .............. SMH

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themessenger 1 year ago

Chucky, as a matter of fact the you do have to have your boat inspected annually in order to license it. An inspector from the Port Authority boards your boat and carries out a physical inspection for radio, flares, life jackets, tools, first aid kit etc in addition to grading the condition of the hull and machinery and a $20 inspection fee is charged in addition to the licensing fee. On top of that, in order to obtain insurance the boat must be surveyed by a certified Marine Surveyor every two years.

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professionalbahamian 1 year ago

No licensing for boat or captain which means no insurance or inspection done ( which costs $50, not $20 and applies to everything that floats) ....

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Jetflt 1 year ago

Neither the Govt or taxpayers should be pay one red cent! This is purely a matter for the owner of Four C’s to deal with. Does Smith have the necessary personal injury insurance to cover his business and his customers and crew?? Does the Govt require operators like this to carry such insurance?? My guess is the answer to those two two questions is NO! Because das jus how we go in da Bahmaas.

We still live in the old days and still do things the way they did things 50 years ago. Well guess what - this very tragic incident has made world news and the trips to swim with the pigs just came to a grinding halt. Tourism in Exuma will suffer big time for a very long time to come!

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