Investigations

United States Coast Guard continues Pass-A-Grille spring break drowning investigation 1 year later

PASS-A-GRILLE, Fla. (WFLA) - One year later, the Coast Guard continues investigating the deaths of two people who drowned while on a four hour charter cruise off Pass-A-Grille beach.

Coast Guard Deputy Sector Commander Randy Brown confirmed to Target 8 the investigation into an incident involving the 71-foot yacht, the Jaguar, and a group of students who booked the boat for a four hour cruise continues.

"Whenever you have a loss of life as you had in this situation, you don't want to miss something," explained Commander Brown.

According to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report on March 14, 2017, a group of 15 Chinese college students on spring break booked the vessel through Florida Yacht Charters.

One student, Jie Luo, got into trouble when he was swimming off the Jaguar. Crew member Andrew Dillman jumped into save Luo. They both drowned.

A marine casualty investigation is complicated, according to Commander Brown.

"You're dealing with multiple different companies, multiple different lawyers that are getting involved in the case," he added.

"The Coast Guard does take a good amount of time to complete their investigations," explained John McLaughlin, a maritime attorney.

"With a death case involved, with foreign nationals involved, the Chinese involved, there may have been additional factors that they had to look into."

Emails obtained by Target 8 last year revealed the Coast Guard was warned in 2015 and 2016 that the Jaguar was carrying too many passengers.

In March 2017, the Coast Guard received another warning about illegal passenger vessel operations compromising safety days before Luo and Dillman died.

The family of Luo filed a lawsuit against Jaguar Captain Todd Davis, Patrick Dines, operator of Florida Yacht Charters, and Azure Ocean Escapes, LLC., the owner of the Jaguar.

The lawsuit charges Davis operated the yacht "without the appropriate experience, knowledge and the required captain's license to operate the Jaguar."

"That would be part of the active ongoing investigation," Cdr. Brown added.

The lawsuit also claims there was a delay in contacting the Coast Guard.

"Exactly the timing or whether or not there was a delay or not, that'd be similar to the captain's licensing question, that'd be part of the investigation and I can't speak to that," added Cdr. Brown.


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