The captain who piloted the city of Charleston fireboat that smashed into a harbor buoy while speeding to a distress call is no longer with the boat team, Fire Chief Karen Brack said this week.
Brack declined to give disciplinary details on captain John Brian Koster, calling it a personnel matter. She did say he is still with the department and assigned to what she termed light duty.
Koster paid the maximum allowable $500 in restitution for the damage to the vessel, Brack said, which earlier was estimated to run to about $53,000.
“We came to an understanding,” she said of the change in assignment.
Brack’s comments came as the department also reported two minor accidents involving the city’s new $1.1 million firetruck. Both occurred during what Brack said were training duties.
In one incident, the vehicle, which has a front driver and a second steering compartment in a back cab that controls the rear steering, hit a parked trash truck, causing a minor scrape.
In the other, a door was smashed while the vehicle was making a turn at the intersection of Queen and Archdale streets in downtown Charleston, Brack said. The door hit a utility pole.
Brack called the accidents part of the learning curve that goes with the newness of the vehicle, which has not formally gone into service.
“This is an opportunity to learn,” she said, adding that “if it has to happen, let’s get it over now.”
Brack did not give a date on when the fireboat would go back into service. It is still going through repairs. The remaining crew team has been conducting training with the Coast Guard.
City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, who chairs the public safety committee, said there is not much the city can do about speeding the boat back into service, since the fixes and timetable are in the hands of a local repair yard.
The department’s $850,000, 36-foot fireboat was knocked out of service in April when it struck a harbor navigation buoy in the dark while responding to a small Navy patrol boat that had struck the south harbor jetty while it was on a training mission. The impact dented the city boat’s bow and punctured its hull, but it was able to return to shore safely.
A Coast Guard investigation of the crash showed the incident was “a classic case of human error” caused by a combination of minimal crew experience, unsafe speed, no lookout, fatigue and lack of proficiency with equipment.
The Navy patrol boat was on a training mission from Jacksonville, Fla., and ran aground in the dark. It later sank. Six people were injured.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551