Petty Officer Pleads Guilty Over Parade of Lights Crash

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Caroline and Alan DeWeese, parents of Anthony DeWeese, walk to a Coast Guard court martial in Alameda, Calif., Monday, March 7, 2011. The court martial started for Coast Guard Petty officer Paul Ramos charged in connection with a deadly boat crash including charges including aggravated assault after the Coast Guard vessel crashed into a boat in San Diego Bay on Dec. 20, 2009. The crash killed 8-year-old Anthony DeWeese and left four other people seriously injured. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

    The highest-ranking member of the Coast Guard crew involved in a collision that killed an 8-year-old boy during the 2008 Parade of Lights in San Diego Bay pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of dereliction of duty.

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Howell will request immediate discharge from the Coast Guard as part of an agreement ahead of his court-martial. He may face other penalties during a sentencing hearing being held at the Camp Pendleton on Tuesday.

    An attorney for the family of the boy, Anthony DeWeese, wasn't immediately available to comment because he was attending the military trial.

    The trial came a day after the Coast Guard announced it dropped the most serious charges of negligent homicide, assault and negligence with a boat against Howell.

    Last week the driver of the boat, Petty Officer Paul Ramos, was found guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to conduct a risk assessment. During his court-martial, Ramos was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, aggravated assault, and hazarding a vessel.

    On Dec. 20, 2009, DeWeese was riding in his father's pleasure boat, when the Coast Guard boat Ramos was driving slammed into the vessel killing Anthony and injuring five other people. At the time, Ramos was responding to a report of a boat stuck in mud.

    A jury of seven Coast Guard members delivered the Ramos verdict at the Coast Guard headquarters in Alameda.

    Mike Neil, the Deweese's attorney previously told NBC San Diego, "There's reluctance in court martial to convict one of their own and the burden of proof here was beyond a reasonable doubt. This has been a tremendous struggle, an emotional roller coaster for this family to have to deal with."

    "This is an important step in the military justice process, and in determining the cause of this tragic collision," said Dan Dewell, an 11th District spokesman. "No legal ruling can restore lives lost or injured, and we know that recounting the details of a tragedy during a trial can be difficult for those affected by it. We take this opportunity to again extend our deepest sorrow and condolences to the victims of the crash and their families," he said.

    DeWeese, who was hosting two other families on his 26-foot boat, previously told National Transportation Safety Board investigators the Coast Guard vessel came at him at an estimated 30 to 40 knots -- or 35 to 46 mph -- after a fireworks display. One Coast Guard crewmember estimated the boat was going 20 to 25 knots, according to an NTSB transcript.

    DeWeese said he hit the throttle and turned right, but it was too late. After the boat struck, he found two of his sons safe. He came across Anthony facedown in a pile of life jackets, "not moving, not conscious, just in a weird position," DeWeese said.

    The NTSB, which has released more than 4,000 pages of documents, has not said what caused the crash.

    Ian Howell, the highest-ranking member of the patrol boat crew, faces a court-martial in May on charges of negligent homicide, assault, negligence with a boat and dereliction of duty. He has pled not guilty.

    Two other crewmembers were also charged in connection to the incident. Petty Officer Brittany Rasmussen pled guilty to dereliction of duty for her role as lookout on the boat. She received a letter of reprimand. The charges against Petty Officer Lavelle Teague were dropped after prosecutors failed to find sufficient evidence. A third coast Guardsman, Jarett Koelmel, was training on the boat and was never charged.