Canadian Coast Guard facing reputation challenge re towing accident

April 2, 2008

First, thanks to crisisblogger reader Marc Barriere for letting me know about this situation. A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker was towing a vessel when it capsized with loss of four lives–here is the story via canada.com.

That’s a big enough problem for any agency whose primary mission is to save lives. But there is a bigger problem brewing–who is telling the truth? It appears there is a pretty big discrepancy between what the preliminary investigation done by the Transportation Safety Board said and what eye witnesses are saying. That is strongly reminiscent of the problem encountered by the RCMP a year or so ago regarding the taser death of an agitated man at Vancouver airport. After the event the police said one thing, witnesses said another and it looked like he said, she said until a video tape of the incident surfaced on YouTube. The police were not being entirely straight–much to the detriment of the credibility of the police. Let’s hope the same doesn’t occur here.

The lesson is clear. The damage caused to reputation by such a tragic event is compounded many times over when the acceptance of responsibility is avoided. The last thing you want is for the victims or witnesses to end up being more accurate and honest than those responsible for the incident. It seems so obvious, yet, this critically important lesson we should all have learned in kindergarten seems to escape smart, respectable leaders over and over.

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