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From this morning's Key West Citizen:

"Passero was at the helm of a 60-foot powerboat while the boat was being driven on autopilot when it struck a 19-foot powerboat that was anchored just off Little Palm Island, according to the arrest warrant. The two men on board, Robert Strickler and James Trescott, were fishing at the time of the accident. Both were injured and Strickler later died from his injuries, according to authorities."

"Passero was traveling at a high rate of speed in an “highly trafficked area used for a multitude of recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling, fishing and boating,...”

"Trescott told investigators that Strickler was “frantically waving his arms and yelling this guy is going to ram us,” the arrest report stated. He also told authorities that he did not see anyone at the helm of Passero’s boat."
 

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Full Article Text & Link

NY boater charged in fatal crash

By Timothy O'Hara Key West CitizenJuly 29, 2020

Authorities have charged the operator of a boat that struck another vessel and killed one of that vessel’s occupants and injured another during a Feb. 21 accident in Hawks Channel near Little Palm Island.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission claims New York resident Mark Dominic Passero was operating his vessel recklessly at the time of the crash and charged him with vessel homicide, according to an arrest warrant.

Passero turned himself into authorities on Sunday after they secured a warrant for his arrest.

Passero was at the helm of a 60-foot powerboat while the boat was being driven on autopilot when it struck a 19-foot powerboat that was anchored just off Little Palm Island, according to the arrest warrant. The two men on board, Robert Strickler and James Trescott, were fishing at the time of the accident. Both were injured and Strickler later died from his injuries, according to authorities.

Authorities claim Passero was traveling at a high rate of speed in an “highly trafficked area used for a multitude of recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling, fishing and boating,” the arrest warrant stated.

Passero, on the boat with his son, was also “not looking forward at the time of the accident; he was looking down at his Global Positioning System,” the warrant stated. Passero stated that there was “heavy spray hitting his vessel’s windshield and insinglass,” thus limiting his vision forward,” the warrant stated. Passero did admit that his vessel had a radar system but it was not turned on at the time of the crash.

“Passero stated that he did not known he hit the vessel until he turned around, he noticed a struck vessel, anchor line and floating fishing rods,” the warrant stated.

Trescott told investigators that Strickler was “frantically waving his arms and yelling this guy is going to ram us,” the arrest report stated. He also told authorities that he did not see anyone at the helm of Passero’s boat.

Passero’s boat struck Trescott and Strickler’s boat where Strickler was standing. The force of the impact caused Trescott to lose consciousness, according to the report.

The FWC claims Passero was not operating his vessel in a safe and responsible way, but recklessly, which caused the accident and Strickler’s death.

Passero turned himself in on Sunday, but was later released on $150,000 bond.
 

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This is an awful story and my thoughts go out to the victims and family.

A few weeks ago we were under sail on the southern portion of the Pamlico Sound. It was during the day, conditions were sunny, SW 20-25 knts, waves 3ft, ~5 sec intervals. We were on a beat, port tack, limited visibility to starboard since we were heeled and the jib was obstructing my view. I was (as I always do) periodically peeking under the jib.

A large powerboat moving at a high rate of speed was on what appeared to be a collision course 2 mi out. I began taking frequent bearings and confirmed it we were indeed on a collision course. Soon after, the AIS alarm sounded. BTW we both had AIS transponders.

Using binocs I could see that there was no one on deck or at the helm. The windows had shades pulled down! And I assume his AIS alarm was muted. He had radar, I do not. I called on VHF, no answer. I sounded the horn, no response. I fell off abruptly and passed to his stern. He continued on with no course correction and did not even know. He was clearly following the "magenta line" on autopilot. Normally I would not have even attempted to contact or alert him if I have room to alter my course easily (and I did). Normally I would have altered course and been done with it. I guess it bugged me that the ship was fully unattended.

I don't mind taking action like that to avoid a collision, it's part of sailing I think. But it troubles me. What if I were not paying attention?

or worse, like the story, what if I were anchored? Tough to take immediate action at anchor (I suppose the right thing to do is start the engine and cut the anchor line?). Or worse if I were anchored and down below cooking or napping (two things I like to do at anchor!). I may be wrong but when I am at anchor I generally behave as if I am "off watch".
 

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After hailing the vessel that refuses to give way (because no one is at the helm), hail the Coast Guard on 16 and appraise them of the situation. You may save someone's life.
 

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Great advise E. Autopilots and electronics have become so sophisticated that they can follow multi-point routes with ease and many of the behemoth power boats in my area take full advantage of that function. Best to just stay out of their way since often there is no one at the helm or at least no one paying attention.
 

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Don't forget that the problem may ALSO be that the power boater has become incapacitated while the boat is on autopilot.
 

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Don't forget that the problem may ALSO be that the power boater has become incapacitated while the boat is on autopilot.
I am thinking it is more likely he is taking a nap, using the head or making another cocktail.

Either way I agree the Coast Guard should be called. I think there should be huge fines, and loss of boating priveledges for operating a boat without an adequate watch. There should be repercussions for this behavior before someone has to die.
 

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One would hope, if found guilty, Mr Passero is facing an extended period in stone college


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