Loss of crewmen still affects service 10 years later

Yesterday the Coast Guard held a commemoration ceremony in Youngstown, N.Y., to honor two Coast Guardsmen who died following an accident on March 23, 2001 while on patrol along the U.S.-Canada border in Lake Ontario.

To learn more about the accident, click here to read the original press release.

The following is a guest post by Chief Petty Officer Robert Snow, current officer-in-charge of Station Niagara, in Youngstown.

Portraits of Niagara crewmen

Ten years ago, the Coast Guard lost two members of our service family.  Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Chism and Seaman Chris Ferreby were crewmembers at Station Niagara well before I was stationed here as officer-in-charge.  But, their absence is still felt today, as we’re reminded of their sacrifice every time we suit up and carry out the same missions in the same waters that they had patrolled.

Because of the tragic loss 10 years ago, boatcrews Coast Guard wide are reminded of the dangers inherent in our duty, but now we have better tools to mitigate that danger and make the best decision possible for the situation they’re faced with.

Although it’s true that today’s Station Niagara crews patrol the Niagara River and Lake Ontario in often the same treacherous weather conditions, we have better equipment, policies and training, and a different mindset. The equipment has a more strict preventative maintenance program. New policies set forth by the Coast Guard commandant and the Station Niagara standard operating procedures require our assets to report any time they deviate from planned activities.  The concept of training to the minimum standard is no longer acceptable. We want our members to be masters of their craft and the best boatcrews they can be. These programs, policies and procedures are analyzed annually during ready for operation and standardization team inspections.

I was a petty officer first class boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, N.J., at the time of this accident and I personally saw the changes through the Coast Guard. My goal as a member of the Coast Guard is to do everything I can to identify and correct any safety issues before another tragedy happens. I hope this is a goal we all strive for.

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