Crew rescued after scallop boat hits ATB, sinks off Cape May


Three fishermen escaped injury after their scallop boat collided with an articulated tug-barge and sank off Cape May, N.J.
The 42-foot Last Stand struck the barge being pushed by the 4,700-hp ATB tug Dean Reinauer nearly head-on. The ATB was transiting a busy shipping lane when the incident occurred at about 1300 on April 28.

“The fishing vessel Last Stand reported they were taking on water, but didn’t need assistance,” said Coast Guard spokesman David Micallef. “Shortly thereafter, the tug Dean Reinauer reported the fishing vessel Last Stand was sinking.”

The fishing boat’s three-person crew put on survival suits and entered a life raft shortly before the vessel sank roughly six miles east of Cape May. A Coast Guard boat rescued the crew about 30 minutes after the distress call.

Capt. Charles Hackett, owner of the 60-foot charter fishing boat Sea Star III, said his co-captain heard the ATB contacting the fishing boat by radio shortly before the collision. The fishing boat never responded, Hackett said. 

“Capt. Mike (Keslo) heard the distress, but prior to that, he heard the tug hailing the scallop boat … just to try and find out their intentions,” Hackett said, adding that he was tending to the roughly 15 customers on board and did not hear the communication. 

Northeast winds were blowing about 14 knots at the time of the incident and seas were 4 to 6 feet, the Coast Guard said. Visibility was 10 nm in occasional rain.

Sea Star III, which is based in Cape May, was about a mile away when the distress call went out. Hackett said the vessel motored to the scene of the accident and arrived about 15 minutes later. He said the scalloper’s bow section was “completely collapsed.”

The charter boat watched as Last Stand’s crew climbed into a life raft and paddled from stern to bow. Soon afterward, the vessel rolled over and about a minute later it sank. 

“There was nothing left of the front of the boat,” Hackett said. “It rolled on its side and went down hard and fast.”

Crew and passengers aboard Sea Star III shouted to the men in the life raft, letting them know help was on the way. 

Coast Guard personnel from Station Cape May arrived in a 45-foot response boat-medium at 1334. The crew pulled the fishermen aboard and snagged their life raft. Hackett grabbed the vessel’s floating EPIRB and tossed it to the Coast Guard. 

“The crew of the fishing vessel Last Stand was extremely prepared and knowledgeable on their safety equipment and procedures,” Petty Officer 2nd Class James Pappas of Station Cape May said in a statement. 

“Their readiness allowed them to abandon ship within 10 minutes of the collision, including scrambling into their survival suits and ultimately into their life raft,” added Pappas, who participated in the rescue. “They saved their own lives.”

Reinauer Transportation declined to comment on the incident, and attempts to locate the captain of Last Stand were not successful. 

The Reinauer barge involved in the accident was not identified, but the Coast Guard said the vessel was not damaged. Dean Reinauer remained near the accident scene until it was released by the Coast Guard. Afterward it continued to Marcus Hook, Pa. 

The cause of the accident remains under investigation by the Coast Guard.

By Professional Mariner Staff