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Cellphone Use Critical Factor in Deaths

Records from the National Transportation Safety Board point to cell phone use by the mate operating the tugboat, as a critical factor in the deadly collision between a barge and a Ride the Ducks tugboat last year.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the mate, Matt Devlin, was on the phone checking in on a family emergency.  His son was going through a medical procedure, and had suffered a life-threatening condition.  According to cell phone records, Devlin was on the phone at least 21 times between 12:22 PM and 2:38 PM on the day of the accident.

The Ride the Ducks boat had suffered a malfunction and was stalled in the water. At the time the barge plowed into the tourist boat, Devlin was on a six-minute phone call with his mother. There were 37 passengers on the tourist boat, and all of them fell into the water.  Two passengers drowned.

Devlin did not inform his fellow crewmembers of his family issues. According to K-Sea Transportation which owns the tugboat, if Devlin had informed the company about his personal problems, the company would have had someone relieve him. The tugboat company has since banned the personal use of cell phones for crew members on duty.