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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-90-019
Details
Synopsis: ABOUT 1530, ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1988, THE 46-FOOT-LONG PASSENGER VESSEL COUGAR BEGAN TO TAKE ON WATER WHILE RETURNING FROM A FISHING TRIP OFF THE OREGON COAST. ABOARD WERE NINE PERSONS CONSISTING OF THE MASTER, THE MATE (WHO ASSISTED THE MASTER AT THE HELM), THE DECKHAND, AND SIX PASSENGERS. AN INSPECTION OF THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT AND LAZARETTE REVEALED SUBSTANTIAL FLOODING. THE PASSENGERS AND THE CREW FOUGHT THE RISING WATER WITH BUCKETS AND PUMPS FOR 1.5 HOURS WITHOUT SUCCESS. ABOUT 1615, A DISTRESS MESSAGE WAS REPEATEDLY TRANSMITTED OVER THE VESSEL'S VHF-FM AND CITIZENBAND RADIOS UNTIL THE MASTER ABANDONED THE COUGAR. ABOUT 1650, THE PASSENGERS AND CREW ABANDONED THE VESSEL. THE PASSENGER HAD SUFFICEIENT TIME TO LAUNCH A BUOYANT APPARATUS BEFORE LEAVING THE VESSEL. AT 1700, THE COUGAR SANK QUICKLY BY THE STERN. PIECES OF WRECKAGE THAT BROKE FREE OF THE VESSEL WERE GATHERED BY THE SURVIVORS AND USED TO REMAIN AFLOAT IN THE 55 DEGREES WATER. DURING THE FOLLOWING 18 HOURS, THE MASTER, THE DECKHAND, AND TWO PASSENGERS SUCCUMBED TO HYPOTHERMIA AND DROWNED. AT APPROXIMATELY 1048, ON SEPTEMBER 16, 1988, SEARCH AND RESCUE AIR UNITS OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD LOCATED THE MATE AND FOUR SURVIVING PASSENGERS. ABOUT 1100, THE FIVE SURVIVORS WERE RESCUED AND TRANSPORTED TO A HOSPITAL ASHORE FOR TREATMENT FOR HYPOTHERMIA AND EXPOSURE.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE U.S. COAST GUARD: REEVALUATE THE STANDARDS (SMOKE QUANTITY AND DENSITY) OF HAND-HELD ORANGE SMOKE DISTRESS SIGNALS TO IMPROVE THE DETECTABILITY OF THESE SIGNALS.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Marine
Location: Pacific Ocean, PO, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA88MM061
Accident Reports:
Sinking of the Passenger vessel Cougar
Report #: MAR-90-02
Accident Date: 9/15/1988
Issue Date: 2/22/1990
Date Closed: 11/15/1993
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: USCG (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 11/15/1993
Response: THE BOARD AGREES THT THE 406 MHZ SATELLITE EPRIB WILL PROVIDE THE BEST SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS OF LOCATING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS. THEREFORE, RECOMMENDATION M-90-19 HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED "CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE ACTION.

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 8/19/1993
Response: WE DO NOT CONCUR WITH THIS RECOMMENDATION. APPROVED SMOKE SIGNALS USE CURRENT TECHNOLOGY, AND THERE IS NO KNOWN WAY TO IMPROVE SMOKE SIGNALS EXCEPT TO INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF PYROTECHNIC SMOKE COMPOSITION IN ORDER TO PRODUCE MORE SMOKE. THE ORANGE COLOR IS A RECOGNIZED DISTRESS SIGNAL AND PROVIDES GOOD CONTRAST WITH MOST SKY AND SEA CONDITIONS. THE DETECTABILITY OF FLARES CAN BE IMPROVED BY INCREASING INTENSITY, ALTITUDE, AND BURN TIME. UNLIKE FLARES, ONLY MARGINAL IMPROVEMENT COULD BE EXPECTED BY INCREASING THE AMOUNT OF SMOKE PRODUCED BY A SMOKE SIGNAL. THE SMOKE SIGNAL WOULD STILL BE ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY HIGH WINDS, FOG, LIMITED LIGHT, AND BRIGHT LIGHT/GLARE CONDITIONS. SMOKE SIGNALS ARE NOT PARTICULARLY EFFECTIVE WHEN THEY ARE USED AS AN "ALERTING" DEVICE. IN HIGH WINDS, SMOKE STAYS CLOSE TO THE SURFACE AND IS QUICKLY DISSIPATED. IN OUR APRIL 10, 1978, NPRM ON VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS ON RECREATIONAL BOATS (43 FR 15118), THE USCG DISCUSSED THE RELATIVE EFFECTIVENESS OF VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS. SMOKE SIGNALS WERE CONSIDERED TO BE ADEQUATE FOR ALERTING AND LOCATING PURPOSES AT 1 MILE UNDER CLEAR DAYTIME CONDITIONS. THEY ARE BEST USED WHEN SEARCHERS ARE IN THE AREA AND ARE ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR SURVIVORS. THE BEST HOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT IN DISTRESS ALERTING IS THE 406 MHZ SATELLITE EPIRB. IT WILL PROVIDE DISRESS RAPID AND UNAMBIGUOUS ALERTING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE FORCES. IT WILL ENABLE IDENTIFICATION OF THE VESSEL IN DISTRESS, AND ACCURATE LOCATION INFORMATION. THIS WILL BE FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY MARGINAL IMPROVEMENT OBTAINED BY CARRYING LARGER SMOKE SIGNALS. WE ANTICIPATE NO FURTHER USCG ACTION ON THIS RECOMMENDATION, AND WE REQUEST THAT IT BE CLOSED.