NTSB Determines Probable Cause in Waymon Boyd Accident

On Tuesday, the 26th of April, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a public board meeting with the goal of determining the probable cause of the major accident that destroyed the dredging vessel Waymon Boyd and took the lives of 4 of its crew members almost two years ago.


The Maritime Accident

On August 21, 2020, the Waymon Boyd went on its final dredging mission in Corpus Christi Ship Channel in Texas. In the midst of the operation, the dredging vessel struck a sunken 16-inch pipeline of hazardous liquids that was carrying propane, resulting in the eruption of propane gas and water in a geyser right next to the boat. It didn’t take a long time before the propane gas spread throughout the area and covered the dredge in a gas cloud that eventually caused a massive explosion and fire that ravaged the boat. The fire was so huge that it damaged the nearby shoreline as well.

During that particular dredging operation, there were several vessels on the water. Along with the dredger Waymon Boyd, there were also tender boats, booster barges, anchor barges and one supply barge that were all functioning as assist boats in the operation. The accident has been declared by the US Coast Guard as a major marine casualty.

The Casualties

At the time of the accident, there were 18 individuals on the dredge and on the assist boats. All of them were employees of Orion Marine Group. Some were working and others were resting when the explosion took place. The impact immediately took the lives of three crew members who were on the Waymon Boyd, as well as one person who was on a nearby anchor barge. Six other crew members on the dredge suffered from critical injuries. One of them, Jose Coca, put up a courageous battle for four months before he eventually succumbed to the burn injuries and died in San Antonio in December.

The Vessel

The Waymon Boyd was the property of Orion Marine Group. Valued at approximately $9.48 million, it was a 152-foot-long cutterhead suction dredge that is non-propelled and carries the flag of the United States.

The Pipeline

The propane gas that had caused the explosion had escaped through a breach in the TX219 pipeline, which was owned and maintained by Enterprise Products. The pipeline was damaged when the rotating cutterhead of the Waymon Boyd hit it during the dredging operation. The cost of damage to the pipeline was valued at $2.09 million.

A Most Likely Turn of Events

In an attempt to avert further disaster, the leverman of the Waymon Boyd reported that they tried to steer the vessel from the propulsion of water and propane coming from the breach in the pipeline. However, the boat was merely 200 feet away and there simply wasn’t enough time to maneuver the craft away from the area.

Based on investigations, it is strongly suspected that the ventilation fans in the engine room of the dredging vessel drew the propane gas further into the boat, where it caused the explosion and the ensuing fire that consumed the boat.

Probable Cause

The NTSB has come to the conclusion that the probable cause of the mishap was the insufficient planning and lack of risk management protocols by the Orion Marine Group. The company was unable to recognize that the location of their dredging operations was in very close proximity to the TX219 pipeline of Enterprise Products. With this lack of awareness, no preventive measures were put into place to keep the cutterhead of the dredge vessel from getting too close to the pipeline, where it is almost certain to cause significant damage.

Also among the factors that played a part in the unfolding of the accident are the flawed dredging plans that were prepared by Schneider Engineering and Consulting. These plans, which were submitted by Orion Marine Group to Enterprise Products during their preliminary coordination for the operation, contained incomplete data. Thus, the concerned parties were not aware of the need to put up preventive measures for the protection of the pipeline during the dredging project.

Safety Issues

In the public board meeting last Tuesday, the NTSB reported the results of their continuous and meticulous investigations of the accident. They have identified several safety issues that must be addressed in order to prevent future similar incidents, including the following: pipeline damage prevention, pipeline hazard training, and inadequate project planning and risk assessment.

Establishing Liability and Seeking Legal Assistance

For the victims of such major vessel accidents and their families, there will be significant changes to undergo. In addition to the emotional and psychological trauma that are sure to happen, the families will also be left with monumental expenses to take care of. This is why it is very important to seek the help of a qualified legal professional as soon as possible after these accidents take place.

It is impossible to bring lives back but when someone is held liable for the accident, the victims can at least make the necessary compensation claims to at least lighten the financial load on their families. If you or a family member has recently been in a boat explosion or similar maritime accident, call us at O’Bryan Law for a free consultation. Our expert maritime attorneys can take a close look at your situation and advise you on the best legal move to make.

Maritime Lawyer Questions Regarding Accidents

How is liability established in accidental boat explosions?

A thorough investigation needs to be done in order to identify the entity or entities that are liable for the accident. In the case of the Waymon Boyd accident, the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB is the primary federal agency in charge of all such investigations.

Are there any laws that pertain to maritime safety?

There are plenty of very specific laws regarding boat safety, as well as corresponding penalties and consequences for those that fail to abide by these laws. You can talk to our maritime attorneys here at O’Bryan Law if you have any questions.

Can I claim compensation if my relative was among the victims?

Families of boat accident victims are most certainly eligible to claim compensation for the loss or injury of their loved one, as well as other damages incurred.