Feds step in to boat crash investigation

SANDUSKY The Toledo station of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit has launched an investigation
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The Toledo station of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit has launched an investigation into last month's boat crash that left seven passengers injured.

Captain Ted Bayer, 46, Liberty Center, was at the helm of the chartered boat when it hit a breakwall near Cedar Point on July 17, injuring several passengers, including celebrity outdoors program TV host Roger Raglin.

Bayer has been issued three citations following the completion of an investigation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft.

A licensed master's captain since 2005, Bayer's record is now under scrutiny by U.S. Coast Guard officials as they conduct a casualty investigation.

"We're trying to determine what happened," said Lt. Mike Reed, U.S Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit of Toledo. "The status of his license is totally separate from what the state does."

The ODNR investigation led to state law violations, whereas the U.S. Coast Guard investigation will look into any federal law violations.

If there is any indication of wrongdoing, a suspension and revocation investigation into Bayer's license will also be conducted, Reed said.

About 6,000 boaters are awarded licenses each year, according to Al Campolongo, chief of the Toledo U.S. Coast Guard Regional Exam Center.

Bayer is licensed to operate small vessels, which includes boats up to 25 tons. The vessel Bayer was steering at the time of the accident was a 33-foot 2006 Fountain Sportfish boat. He does not have any violation history with Coast Guard, Reef said.

The initial probe requires interviewing all people on the boat during the accident and may take a few weeks to complete. Bayer's license could be suspended, taken away, put on probation or he could receive a written warning, depending on the outcome of the investigation, Reef said.

In order to obtain a license, applicants must pass a physical exam, a criminal background check, drug test and written exam.

Licenses are valid for five years. A written test is required at the end of that period in order to renew a license, Campolongo said. License applicants also need to know first aid and boating safety rules.

A total of 360 hours of sailing experience is also required on top of a $140 fee.

The Toledo office is one of 17 regional examination centers across the country.

Bayer was cited for failure to keep a proper lookout, reckless operation and unsafe speed. His arraignment is Wednesday in Sandusky Municipal Court.