Team 10: NTSB report on Hornblower crash points to lack of maintenance

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A final report from the National Transportation Safety Board points to the probable cause of a 2016 crash into the Navy Pier and dock in downtown San Diego.

The Adventure Hornblower collided with the seawall sending people on shore scrambling for safety.

According to the August 2017 report, the probable cause is listed as “failure of the port transmission to disengage from the forward propulsion position due to the operating company’s lack of adherence to the transmission manufacturer’s recommended periodic maintenance schedule and the lack of routine maintenance and upkeep of the propulsion system’s equipment.”

It also says that the lack of instrumentation to provide a positive indication of thrust direction or an alarm to indicate the propulsion control system was not responding properly to the captain's commands.

"it was shocking,” said passenger Susan Pendergast. “I mean it was just shocking.”

Pendergast says when the vessel hit the dock she was thrown to the ground, re-injuring an already bad back.

She eventually had surgery in two different places.

“It’s left me certainly not with the life I once had,” she said.

Following the collision, an official with Hornblower told 10News it could be related to a possible mechanical failure.

A few months later court documents pointed toward an unforeseeable and unpreventable mechanical failure despite proper maintenance, the fault was caused by the neglect of others.

The NTSB report disputes that finding.

When talking about the collision, the report states,  “As the Adventure Hornblower approached the pier on the accident date, the port transmission failed to respond to the captain’s helm orders. Investigators believe that the fault occurred between the servo-actuator, the mechanical linkage, and the control unit, most likely due to neglected maintenance to the port transmission and control system.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Hornblower disputes the NTSB’s findings writing, 

“Hornblower Cruises & Events continues with safe, daily operations, following the allision of Adventure Hornblower back in 2016. On that day, the initial response of our captain and crew to address all immediate safety concerns and ensure the well-being of all guests aboard, was exceptional. Hornblower has noted several inaccuracies in the NTSB report on this matter, and therefore disagrees with its determinations as to the probable cause of the allision.  Due to ongoing product defect litigation, Hornblower cannot comment further at this time. Hornblower, deeply appreciates the amazing loyalty of our customers and guests over the years, and we continue to work with care and diligence, every day, to deliver on that trust.”

When 10News asked about specific inaccuracies, the company did not comment.

This isn’t the first time 10News has reported on an incident involving a Hornblower vessel.

On Oct. 5, 2014, the Adventure Hornblower hit another ship, the Cabrillo, before slamming into the Broadway Pier. On Nov. 8, 2014, just days after the vessel was cleared to return to its normal operations, another issue with the adventure.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 10, 2014, another ship, the Admiral Hornblower, which used to be known as the Lord Hornblower, collided with a San Diego Harbor Police boat that was docked. 

It relaunched in January 2015. 

Hornblower operates in multiple cities across the country.

According to its website, Hornblower has seven boats in San Diego running everything from dining cruises to corporate events, and weddings.

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