The U.S. Coast Guard’s investigation into the Saturday afternoon, April 21, boat accident which killed the boat’s captain, Joseph “Tash” Allen, is focusing on the condition of the vessel.
Allen was killed while operating his “go-fast” boat, Bad News Travels Fast, just off of Gallows Point. The popular V.I. Port Authority employee was ejected from the high-powered boat when it hit a swell, causing its bow to rise high into the air as the deck peeled off before the boat slammed into the water cracking its hull.
Allen’s body was recovered soon after the accident, which ripped the deck and seats off the fiberglass boat. There was no sign of fire or engine explosion.
“We are looking into manufacturer defects,” said U.S.C.G. Lieutenant Com-mander Ryan Manning. “Boats are designed so they will hold up under the conditions under which they are powered. Obviously, we can’t control someone who puts a larger engine into their boat.”
Engine Enhancement Questioned
While Allen had reportedly been working on his boat’s engines in preparation for the St. Thomas Carnival boat races on Sunday, April 22, Manning could not confirm whether Bad News Travels Fast’s engine had been changed out or otherwise enhanced.
The investigation is focusing on the condition of Bad News Travels Fast, which unexpectedly failed after hitting a swell, explained Manning.
While recreational boat owners can voluntarily submit their vessel for inspection, there are no rules governing what boaters can do to enhance their engines, the USCG lieutenant commander added.
“The American Boat and Yacht Council establishes standards for boat manufacturers to follow,” said Manning. “The fastest a boat can go would be primarily dependent on the manufacturer.”
“Of course, there is nothing to stop people from adding modifications exceeding the manufacturer recommendations,” the USCG officer added.
There is no set speed limit for boaters in open waters, explained Manning.
“The navigation rules do require someone to proceed at a safe speed in relation to not hitting other vessels,” he said. “In this case, Mr. Allen didn’t hit another vessel, so you really couldn’t apply that rule.”
Go-fast captains take risks when pushing their vessels to extreme speeds, explained USCG spokesperson Ricardo Castrodad.
“Bad News Travels Fast was being operated at a high rate of speed when it hit a swell and broke up,” said Castrodad. “I wouldn’t be operating at that speed, especially since I’m not a professional captain. There is a high risk of having an accident — even in professional races, on occasion, they have an incident when a boat captain loses his life.”
Travel at Safe Speed
Boaters can stay safe by taking note of the condition of their vessel and traveling at speeds the vessel can handle, explained Manning.
“The way to prevent something like this would be to ensure the boat is in good condition, and you’re going a safe speed based on the condition of the vessel,” he said. “There is no way you can make a blanket statement about how fast a boat should go, because all boats are different.”
Bad News Travels Fast was towed to shore by a Virgin Islands National Park vessel following the accident.
“We stored it in case any other agency wanted to take a look at the boat,” said VINP Chief Ranger Mark Marschall. “I checked on Monday (April 23) with the V.I. Police Department and the Coast Guard, and neither of them had any further need to hold the boat, so I released the boat to the family.”
The accident is also being investigated by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.