Aboard on the Fourth of July

Petty Officer 3rd Class Donald Shaw inspects the registration paperwork of a recreational boater on the Elizabeth River following the fireworks display. In addition to verifying that this and other boaters had their required documentation and safety equipment, Shaw and a boat crew from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth helped establish a safety zone in the river. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Donald Shaw inspects the registration paperwork of a recreational boater on the Elizabeth River following the fireworks display. In addition to verifying that this and other boaters had their required documentation and safety equipment, Shaw and a boat crew from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth helped establish a safety zone in the river. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller.

Boat crews from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth had front row seats for the Fourth of July fireworks display on the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va.

Call it a perk for having to work on a federal holiday. But the crews weren’t there to take in the view. They were there with one thing in mind – safety.

Norfolk Police Lt. Shaun Squyres (left) and Virginia Port Authority Maritime Incident Response Team Director William A. Burket Jr. watch the Fourth of July fireworks display on the Elizabeth River aboard a Coast Guard Station Portsmouth response boat. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller.

Norfolk Police Lt. Shaun Squyres (left) and Virginia Port Authority Maritime Incident Response Team Director William A. Burket Jr. watch the Fourth of July fireworks display on the Elizabeth River aboard a Coast Guard Station Portsmouth response boat. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller.

The station provided two response boats, which along with other local and state law enforcement agencies, established a 500-foot safety zone around the barge launching the fireworks. The zone was in place to keep spectators aboard nearby recreational vessels safe from errant pyrotechnics and the barge safe from boaters.

In addition to Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Firth, and three other crewmembers from Station Portsmouth, the response boat crew was comprised of Norfolk Police Lt. Shaun Squyres and Virgina Port Authority Maritime Incident Response Team Director Bill Burket. Together the officers kept a keen eye out for safety aboard the response boat, which served as the command and control platform for the safety zone.

“Our interoperability in this area is awesome. From a state and local perspective, it really helps us manage special events like OpSail and the fireworks and to respond to emergencies when they happen,” said Burket.

Crewmembers aboard the response boat also conducted recreational boating safety inspections to check for required documents and safety equipment. Boarding team members warned boaters about overcrowded vessels and cited several for minor violations, including not having the necessary number of lifejackets aboard and inoperable navigation lights.

With local responders at the ready, Independence Day proved a pleasant evening thanks to Station Portsmouth, its port partners and the rockets’ red glare.

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