15.240 - Boating Accidents

Effective Date: 7/29/2008

POLICY

Seattle Municipal Code Title 16 (Harbor Code) defines the “Port Warden” of the City as the Chief of Police and any duly authorized deputies or assistants acting on the Chief’s behalf. Listed as a specific duty is the investigation and reporting of marine and maritime accidents in the harbor. The Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit has the primary responsibility of ensuring safety and security on the public waterways of the City. This includes investigating most boating accidents. If the Harbor Patrol Unit is unavailable, boating accidents will be investigated by other officers. Boating accident forms are available at all precincts. The Harbor Patrol Unit and Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS) may be contacted if further assistance is needed.

I. Definitions

A. Boat: Any vessel or watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water.

1. It does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, small flimsy rafts, or floatation devices used as toys by swimmers.

B. Operator: An individual who steers, directs, or otherwise has physical control of a vessel that is underway or exercises actual authority to control the person at the helm.

C. Owner: A person who has a lawful right to possession of a vessel by purchase, exchange, gift, lease, inheritance, or legal action whether or not the vessel is subject to a security interest.

II. Primary Investigating Officer at a Boating Accident Scene

A. The Harbor Patrol Unit shall be called to the scene of all boating accidents or collisions, and all water emergencies.

B. Officers who are not assigned to the Harbor Patrol Unit may be required to investigate a boating accident if the Harbor Patrol Unit is unavailable.

III. Documentation Requirements for Boating Accidents

A. Documentation requirements for boating accidents can be complicated and depending on the circumstances more than one report may be necessary.

B. The investigation of a boating accident may simply require a General Offense Report. However, more serious accidents will require that the boat operator or owner complete a Boating Accident Report (BAR) and submit it to the Harbor Patrol Unit. Boating accidents that result in death or injury requiring hospitalization will additionally require a Boating Accident Investigation Report (BAIR), which the primary investigating officer at the scene will complete.

1. General Offense Report.

a. Boating accidents can be documented on a General Offense Report if they meet any of the following criteria:

(1) Damage greater than $500.00 to any involved boat or other property.

(2) “Hit and Run” with less than $500.00 damage and no injuries that require medical treatment beyond first aid.

(3) City property or boat is involved with less than $500.00 damage and no injuries that require medical treatment beyond first aid.

(4) Whenever a citizen requests that a report be taken.

2. Boating Accident Report (BAR).

a. The BAR is a Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission form.

b. The BAR is required when boating accidents meet any of the following criteria:

(1) Death.

(2) Injury which required medical treatment beyond first aid.

(3) Property damage in excess of $500.00, or the complete loss of a vessel.

(4) The disappearance of a person from a vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

c. Officers will instruct the boat operator to complete a BAR and return it to the Harbor Patrol Unit (1717 N. Northlake Place, Seattle WA 98103). The BAR has instructions printed on the front of the multi-page form.

(1) If the operator is incapacitated, deceased or otherwise unable to complete the BAR, it will be given to the boat owner to complete and submit to the Harbor Patrol Unit.

(2) If the operator and owner are both incapacitated, deceased or otherwise unable to complete the BAR, then the primary investigating officer will complete it and deliver it to the Harbor Patrol Unit.

d. The Harbor Patrol Unit is ultimately responsible for routing the BAR to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission office in Olympia.

e. Time requirements for completing and submitting the BAR:

(1) In cases of death or injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, the BAR must be forwarded to Olympia within 48 hours.

(a) In all other cases, the BAR must be forwarded to Olympia within ten days. Officers will instruct the operator or owner to complete the form as soon as possible and mail it or hand deliver it to the Harbor Patrol Unit.

3. Boat Accident Investigation Report (BAIR):

a. The BAIR is a Washington State Parks & Recreation form (P&R A-425).

b. The BAIR is always completed by the primary investigating officer and is required when boating accidents meet either of the following criteria:

(1) Death.

(2) Injury requiring hospitalization.

c. Complete the Boat Accident Investigation Report (BAIR) as thoroughly as possible, obtain supervisory approval and deliver it to the Harbor Patrol Unit.

(1) The BAIR must be forwarded to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission office in Olympia within 48 hours.

IV. Boating Accidents Requiring the Presence of the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS)

A. Accidents which have resulted in the death of any person.

B. Accidents in which the officer feels the injuries are serious enough that someone may die.

C. Serious hit and run accidents which involve injuries.

D. Accidents involving City equipment where serious injuries or extensive property damage has occurred.

E. Missing persons under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

F. Notify the Harbor Patrol Unit any time TCIS is called out.

V. Impounds

A. Authority to Impound

1. Probable cause exists to believe that the boat constitutes evidence of a crime or contains evidence of a crime.

2. The operator appears incapable of safely operating the boat.

3. The operator refuses or neglects to obey an order to proceed from or to an area following a citation or in an emergency.

4. The operator operates a boat in a negligent, reckless or other manner so as to endanger the safety of others or to interfere with the navigation of other watercraft; and the officer believes that impoundment is necessary to stop such operation.

5. The vessel, watercraft, or obstruction appears unsafe for water transportation.

6. The vessel, watercraft, or obstruction appears abandoned, or is anchored or moored in an anchorage, waterway or submerged street area after expiration, cancellation, or violation of a permit, or in violation of SMC 16.32.020.D without a permit seventy-two (72) hours after an order to remove the same has been given as provided in SMC 16.32.020.E.

7. The vessel, watercraft or obstruction is obstructing a launch ramp area or public dock.

B. Procedures

1. Complete the Vessel, Watercraft, or Obstruction Theft and Impound Report (Form 5.42).

2. Notify the Harbor Unit to arrange for the boat to be towed. All impounds will be stored at the Harbor Patrol Unit boat shed on Lake Union.

VI. Collisions involving a Harbor Patrol Unit Boat

A. Any collision involving a Harbor Patrol Unit boat shall be reported immediately and investigated regardless of injury, death, or degree of damage.

1. If a Harbor Patrol Unit boat is involved in a collision, the officer operating the boat will have the same basic responsibilities as an officer involved in an on-duty motor vehicle accident:

a. Check for injuries and render first aid.

b. Notify a Harbor Patrol Unit sergeant immediately.

c. Remain at the scene until relieved by a Harbor Patrol Unit sergeant.

d. Complete an Officer Statement (form 9.27) and a diagram.

2. The Harbor Patrol Unit sergeant’s responsibilities:

a. Upon arrival, ensure that any injured persons have been cared for.

b. Ensure that a Harbor Patrol Unit officer (not involved in the collision) is assigned to complete the primary investigation and the appropriate reports (see II, III and IV).

(1) Determine if TCIS should be called (see IV).

(2) The Harbor Patrol Unit sergeant has the option of calling TCIS to request a response, even if the situation does not require their presence.

c. If TCIS is not responding to the collision, the HPU sergeant will ensure that:

(1) The collision scene is photographed with a minimum of four photographs to include:

(a) The Harbor Patrol Unit boat.

(b) The other boat or property involved.

(c) At least two different views of the scene.

3. Notify the Harbor Patrol Unit Lieutenant

a. This notification will be made at the earliest opportunity (on a twenty-four hour basis) when the collision involves injuries or there is significant damage.

b. If the Harbor Patrol Unit Lieutenant is unavailable, the captain of the Homeland Security Bureau will be notified.

c. If the collision occurs after normal business hours, the Duty Captain will also be notified.