Boat captain found reckless and negligent

A certified dive instructor in charge of a 48-foot dive boat was found guilty of navigating the vessel recklessly and negligently after trial last week.

Magistrate Nova Hall fined Daniel Jesse Bazoff $1,000 and ordered him to pay another $250 in costs.

Bazoff, 26, was charged after an incident on 8 September, 2008, in which a crew member was swept overboard. Marine officers aboard the Cayman Protector rescued the man.

The charge was that, in the North Sound, Bazoff ‘recklessly and negligently navigated the vessel Cayman Sky into hazardous sea conditions at a time when the Cayman Islands was under a Tropical Storm Watch and when sea conditions were such that there was a risk of persons being thrown overboard, when neither sea conditions nor his level of experience as a boat captain would permit a safe rescue, thereby endangering human life or safety.’

The crew member, Scott Ewen, did not give evidence. It was not clear how long he was in the water before officers threw him a ring buoy and got him on board. The Marine Unit received a report at 10.02am and arrived at the scene at 10.24am.

Bazoff’s evidence was that he had been told the weather was going to be ‘a little bit rough’ so he should check conditions when he got out; if it was too rough he should come back and the seven customers would get a refund.

His procedure was always to have everyone seated while going through the North Sound main channel, which he referred to as a cut. ‘The cut is the most critical point. It’s a little bit unpredictable as you’re going through.’

Bazoff told the court, ‘About halfway through the cut we went into a trough of a wave and one was cresting. The water came onto the bow and splashed up.

‘As we were just getting to the cut I did notice that Scott Ewen was on the bow after I told [another crew member] to have everybody seated. I presumed he was taking care of some rope. Catherine Glaser [a new employee] followed and by this time it was a little too late because we went into that wave.’

Bazoff said he checked with another crew member and was told everyone was accounted for. He was told this three times before someone asked where was Scott. He realised he had been misinformed.

Questioned by his attorney, James Stenning, Bazoff said he believed he could have effected a rescue if he had a fully functioning crew. But he could not rely on the crew member who had misinformed him; Catherine had been cut on the head when the wave threw her from the bow into the cabin; the third crew member was tending to Catherine. Bazoff said he could not rescue Scott by himself because he needed to keep positive control of the vessel.

He radioed for assistance. Meanwhile he continued through the cut out to the open sea, where it’s a little calmer, to turn around. ‘I would never turn around in the cut… It’s narrow, rocks on both sides,’ he explained.

On the way back in he told everyone to watch for Scott. By the time they spotted him, the Protector was close enough to rescue him.

Questioned by Crown Counsel Nicole Petit, he said he could have stopped before entering the cut, but when he saw Scott and Catherine on the bow he was already committed to going through.

The magistrate accepted it was reasonable to go out and assess conditions. She did not accept that Bazoff was committed to continue through the cut and could do nothing else. She found he was reckless in proceeding through the cut.

She also found he was unable to attempt the rescue ‘due to his overall inexperience in handling the vessel in unfamiliar circumstances.’

The charge was that, in the North Sound, Bazoff ‘recklessly and negligently navigated the vessel Cayman Sky into hazardous sea conditions at a time when the Cayman Islands was under a Tropical Storm Watch and when sea conditions were such that there was a risk of persons being thrown overboard, when neither sea conditions nor his level of experience as a boat captain would permit a safe rescue, thereby endangering human life or safety.’

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