Archived Story

Boating mishap leads to mission rules

Published 8:48pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

ST. JOSEPH — The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has concluded its investigation of the capsizing of the Marine Division’s new patrol boat in October.

The boat was struck by a rogue wave when Lt. Martin Kurtz and Deputy Nick Stama were searching for the remains of a drowning victim on Lake Michigan Oct. 17.

The boat’s manufacturer estimated $52,500 worth of repairs was needed.

Chief Deputy Michael Bradley, who completed the report, determined “the mission was not essential…and could have been postponed until lake conditions were well below the operational characteristics of the vessel.”

Bradley told county commissioners Thursday that he is forming a committee, including Kurtz and coast guard chiefs from the Michigan City and St. Joseph stations, to develop a policy for missions on Lake Michigan.

Part of the policy will be a series of guidelines to assist the operator and command staff in determining when it is safe to operate the vessel on the water.

Bradley said the vessel was at the “wrong angle and the wrong speed at the wrong time” at the time of the accident.

Sheriff Paul Bailey said Kurtz has done an “excellent job” with the marine division and said it was “an unfortunate thing that happened.”

The sheriff’s department had just received delivery of the $180,000 vessel a week before the accident. The county received several grants and donations to aid in the purchase.

Bradley said the boat is under warranty and the insurance company should cover the accident.

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