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Not Fit To Sail: 4c’S Home-Built Boat Never Inspected; First Mate In Disaster Was Owner’S 12-Year-Old Son

The boat fire in June last year.

The boat fire in June last year.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Exuma tour company involved in a deadly boat explosion that killed a woman and injured ten others in June broke the law by operating a boat that was neither registered nor ever inspected by the Port Authority, the Bahamas Maritime Authority revealed yesterday.

The verdict about Four C’s Adventures was in the BMA’s report on the Exuma incident, which was released during a press conference yesterday.

“Under no circumstances” should Four C’s have operated the “craft on a commercial basis,” investigators wrote in their report.

Among the findings were that the home-built boat’s “fuel-fill and vent hose did not appear to meet the required specification for its intended purpose; the craft had not been constructed to a recognised standard, or to naval architectural or technical drawings; and the craft’s construction and equipment materials were not verified for suitability of use.”

Investigators also concluded that the Port Department of Exuma has not been “adequately resourced to control and regulate commercial water crafts operating on the island,” noting in their report that a “significant number of commercial crafts operating within the waters of Exuma are not registered with the Port Department despite having submitted valid applications. The mechanical, structural, and safety standards required to be met cannot be verified.”

The exact cause of the boat’s explosion could not be determined because the damage the vessel sustained was too great.

The explosion scenario could not be reconstructed because of absent “technical drawings, electrical circuit diagram and a schematic of the permanently installed fuel system,” the report said.

Nevertheless, investigators determined with a “high degree of probability” that the explosion originated “in the proximity of the starboard fuel tank resulting in the release of a last wave on the starboard side, beneath the front three rows of seats.”

The captain of the boat, a 42-year-old man, had a valid master’s licence. The first mate on the vessel was a 12-year-old boy, the son of Four C’s owner, and had no “qualifications or endorsements.” It is not unlawful to have a minor as a first mate.

Denise Lewis-Johnson, chairman of the BMA, said the authority’s investigation reports are provided with the understanding that they will “not be used as evidence in any legal proceedings anywhere in the world.” The aim of the reports is to prevent marine casualties and incidents, she said. 

Investigators recommended that officials amend the Commercial Recreational Watercraft Act to require that all self-built boats undergo “survey by a recognised organisation to verify the boat’s seaworthiness” and all owners of self-built boats submit construction plans for approval by a recognised organisation for compliance with all current applicable safety standards before construction.

Four C’s was issued a cease and desist order in July and could not operate pending the conclusion of the investigation. Yesterday, Transport Minister Renward Wells told The Tribune the order is still in place. It is not clear what the future holds for the tour company, the largest of its kind in Exuma. Mr Wells said he received the BMA’s report the same time the media did, adding: “We wanted it to be free and independent and that required I not know much that was going on.”

He said he will take the report to Cabinet and expects the Office of the Attorney General to be involved in what happens next. 

Four C’s owner, Patterson Smith, told this newspaper yesterday that he has not seen the report.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll have something to say but I just don’t know what it will be yet because I haven’t seen it,” he said. His lawyer, Elliot Lockhart, had no comment when contacted by The Tribune for his reaction.

A Georgia woman, Maleka Jackson, was killed in the June 30 accident. Among the ten other people injured were Tiran Jackson, Mrs Jackson’s husband who lost, a leg and Stefanie Schaffer, a 22-year-old woman from Vermont who had both of her legs amputated.

Comments

tell_it_like_it_is 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I hope those Americans sue the pants off them. Unlike Bahamians, they will file a lawsuit in a snap! (Additionally, if charges need to be filed that should be done as well). Too much slackness going on in this country!

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Clamshell 8 months, 2 weeks ago

If they do file a lawsuit, it will languish in the courts for 15-20 years in a morass of paper-shuffling and delayed and suspended hearings, while the Nassau lawyers for both sides meet for expensive lunches weekly and discuss how to bleed exhorbitant legal fees from both parties.

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jackbnimble 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I couldn't agree more. Our system is definitely different. You sue and you're waiting for years and years to get a conclusion.

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Dawes 8 months, 2 weeks ago

And watch nothing will change, and no one punished unless they are sued by the tourists. Will be interesting to see if they have would have a case against the Bahamas Government in a US court due to the lack of enforcement of the laws by our Government . If they do maybe we would eventually see some will in enforcing the laws over here.

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licks2 8 months, 2 weeks ago

You and I share the same sentiments. . .the boat had no registration. . .ergo no insurance . . . therefore no payment from 4C! THE NEGLIGENT GOVERNMENT AND THE BOOKING COMPANY WILL HAVE TO PAY!! The government for not doing its duty and the tour company for no doing due diligence before booking clients into a dangerous tour!!

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jackbnimble 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The Government can hardly be accountable to itself, much less watch over a boating business in Abaco somewhere. We watched a whole 2-million-dollar building go up on smoke because a crony contractor did not purchase insurance and nothing has been done about it to this date. Do you think, therefore, that the private sector will fare any less. The Government can't man itself, much less a boat business. #realtalk

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

YET AGAIN...,!!!!!!!.

ANOTHER CASE WHERE FOCUS OF THIS ALLEGED WRONGDOING.....IS WITH THE OWNER OPERATOR....!!!!!!!!!! THE ENTIRE NATION IN INTERNATIONAL EYES ....MUST NOT SUFFER FOR THIS ALLEGED....INCOMPETANCE....involving numbers of persons an NOT ONLY the owner operator.....!!!!!!!

WHERE IS THE ...... 1.GOVETNMENT LICENCING EMPLOYEE 2. WHERE IS THE GOVT PERSON TO MAKE SURE RESORCES TO CHECK ON TOURIST SAFETY CRAFTS 3. WHERE IS THE SHIP BUILDER KNOWING THEY ENGAGES IN SOMETHING TO HAVE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES.... 4. WHERE IS THE ELECTRICIAN....NAVAL DESIGNER.....anyone in the process an operating of this leading to trajedy...? 5. Where are any of these govt people getting paid monthly salaries off the backs of the many pore Bahamians...to do dere jobs....slackness.....resulting in trajedy happening!!!!!....

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Gotoutintime 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Typical Bahamian attitude---The Laws are made for everyone else, not me!!

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seamphony 8 months, 2 weeks ago

someone lost their life and others lost their legs. did he apologize? did he say something that shows remorse? this jerk is like countless others who probably can't even add 2 and 2 getting that tourist $$$s and calling himself master captain!!. port authority, what do you all do all day man? at least inspect and number some boats for god's sake! the bahamas maritime authority has shown they are also spineless for saying our report can't be used in a legal sense. tourists and bahamians alike are putting their lives at risk by getting on unchecked boats and planes operated by idiots. I feel very sorry for the people whose lives changed that day.

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DDK 8 months, 2 weeks ago

He'd show remorse if the law dictated a life for a life or a limb for a limb.

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BahamaPundit 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I a black man in this country. I didn't come from no money. I had to fend for myself and do what it takes to survive. So nobody could tell me to do anything. My car ain't have insurance, my boat ain't licensed and I the boss. Who ga stop me from speeding? Who ga stop me from robbing house. That's the tourist Dem problem. I just trying to make a living. These stinking FNM just a bunch of rich white men. They don't know the struggle. I got a loaded gun. Best nobody try to get in my way.

This is the mentality of many Bahamian men folks. It's not just 4Cs, it's everywhere. How do we change this?

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

SIMPLE..,!!.....dead simple....trust me on dis....one empiracal tru tru way fer starters...........

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BMW 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The owner /operator is negligent in that he #1 did not carry liability insurance #2 did not register the boat #3 hand built the boat and did not rig it properly( used bilge pump hose for fuel) #4 Never had a survey done on the vessel. Pure and complete negligence on the owner operator, the company should be shut down and not be seen again. I hope those affected do sue. As for the b.m.a. what a hopeless bunch.

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Dawes 8 months, 2 weeks ago

And pure and complete negligence on behalf of the port authority as well as no doubt business license, NIB and VAT.

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

TRUE empirical way is to follow the laws .....laws are there for errybody...whether yinna white...black...rich....or ...pore.....but guess aint no laughing matter....who da laws apply to mostest.....???

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ThisIsOurs 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Waiting for the minister, who's been in office for over a year, to say "how did this happen, I'm shocked, befuddled....", the only thing left for them to say is "who in charge?"

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Now comes the not too highlighted publicized inevitable parts......money costs..... 1. Reputational damage to erry single living Bahamian .an the many innocent Bahamians...who had nothing to do wid this......now an the future...$$$$$$$$ 2. Huger.....bigger.... Bahamian marketing fees to promote Tourism $$$$$$$$ 3.Medical expemses by PMH......to take care of our hurt guests $$$$$$$$ 4. Any settlement to compensate hurt ones $$$$$$$ 5. Costs of investigations...and anticipated rechecks.$$$$$$$$ 6. Time, manpower essential services diverted from the getgo, continuing...and finishing $$$$$$$ ...........PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE PORE STRUGGLING BAHAMIAN TAXPAYERS...PAY FOR ALL THESE $$$$$$$$$...BECAUSE OF ALL DESE INEPTS PEOPLE.....Pore people cant pay for more other people receiving salaries slackness

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Jetflt 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Typical of the way business is done in the Bahamas. Anything goes, no regulations, no oversight, no accountability, just do what you want and in the course of doing what you want, take tourists and other people’s lives in your hands. What a shameful black eye this country has just reaped. The government, not 4C’s, is going to pay big time for this! Maybe, just maybe, the government will finally shut down 4C’s for good! These Americans are going to sue te crap out of the government, as they should! Too much slackness in this country but what else is new??

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John 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Still may be sabotaging. There are 12 year old boys that go fishing by themselves in the most challenging weather. And at one point almost all boats in the islands were native built. I still smell sabotage. And it stinks.

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Schemer18 8 months, 2 weeks ago

This is lousiness on part of the Port Authority of Exuma, being the third city with no staff to inspect these vessels within that harbour. The government needs to become efficient, & train the young Bahamians how to take on these task... They making this country look, & sound dumb...

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