Driver of powerboat: Never saw catamaran until it was ‘right there’

DEM releases redacted incident report of fatal boat collision

Posted 10/18/19

PROVIDENCE — Frank Teixeira of Portsmouth, the operator of the 28-foot powerboat that was involved in an Aug. 11 collision that killed Tiverton’s Sandra Tartaglino, told …

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Driver of powerboat: Never saw catamaran until it was ‘right there’

DEM releases redacted incident report of fatal boat collision

Posted

PROVIDENCE — Frank Teixeira of Portsmouth, the operator of the 28-foot powerboat that was involved in an Aug. 11 collision that killed Tiverton’s Sandra Tartaglino, told investigators he never saw the sailboat until it was “right there” in his immediate vicinity.

In another revelation contained in a redacted report released Friday, Oct. 18, by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, Ms. Tartaglino’s crew member said their vessel was experiencing a “lull” in the wind at the time of the collision, and was riding relatively flat — both pontoons in the water — at a speed of 10 knots or less.

The report, which features witness statements collected by Environmental Police Officers (EPO) Kevin Snow and Anthony Esposito and Lt. Daniel White of DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement, details the events immediately following the crash, which threw Ms. Tartaglino, 60, from the catamaran near the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.

Mr. Teixeira, 75, was operating @Last, a 28-foot True World fiberglass cruiser with a deep-V hull, powered by a 315-horsepower Yanmar diesel engine with Mercruiser dual-prop outdrive. He had a passenger aboard, Patricia McKay, 72, of Portsmouth.

Ms. Tartaglino was aboard her Nacra F18 catamaran along with 31-year-old crew member Alex Byczko of Ontario, Canada, as they raced in the New England 100 event that afternoon.

Mr. Byczko told investigators that “he and Sandra Tartaglino were both seated on the starboard side of the (catamaran)” with Sandra sitting aft and steering. 

“At the time of the collision they were at a lull in the wind,” Officer Snow stated in his report. “The boat was riding relatively flat, and he estimates their speed to be ten knots or less. He said they were heading generally south, near the Jamestown side of the East Passage,” just north of the Newport Bridge center span.

Never saw it coming

Mr. Byczko said he never saw the powerboat coming. It was traveling west, he said, when it hit the sailboat’s port side at about a 90-degree angle and rode over the catamaran, causing it to rotate counter-clockwise. Mr. Byczko said the impact momentarily stunned him, but he collected himself quickly and was not thrown overboard. 

Ms. Tartaglino, however, disappeared from sight, he said. Once the boat settled, he saw her “floating face down in the water with a large amount of blood around her,” according to Officer Esposito.

Mr. Byczko said he asked the two people in the powerboat to try to bring Ms. Tartaglino aboard their vessel, but they were unable, stating “we don’t know how to get her up,” according to Officer Esposito’s narrative. 

Teixeira’s account

Mr. Teixeira told Officer Snow his boat departed Casey’s Marina in Newport at about 2:30 p.m., bound for Potter Cove in Jamestown. They were underway for about 15 minutes when they crossed under the center span of the Newport bridge in a westerly direction, nearly parallel to the span, the report stated.

Once under the bridge, the powerboat turned port (left) and that’s when the collision took place, according to Mr. Teixeira.(In his original statement, Mr. Teixeira said he had turned starboard, or right, but later clarified that, blaming the confusion at the scene.)

“Teixeira said he never saw the sailboat until it was ‘right there’ in his immediate vicinity,” Officer Snow’s report stated. 

Mr. Teixeira circled back to assess what had happened and then put in a distress call to the Coast Guard, the report stated. The Newport harbormaster was the first on the scene and recovered Ms. Tartaglino from the water.

Ms. Tartaglino, who was found in the water wearing a life jacket, sustained severe injuries that were “consistent with being caused by a propeller,” according to Officer Snow’s report. 

No criminal charges

DEM chose not to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Teixeira, saying there was no evidence he was speeding or operating his boat in reckless disregard for the safety of others.

DEM will instead prosecute four alleged violations of the Coast Guard’s Inland Navigational Rules in Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Arraignment is set for Nov. 13. 

The violations include risk of collision, action to avoid a collision, responsibilities between vessels, and failure to keep a look-out. Each violation carries a maximum fine of $100.

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