Maritime Casualty News August 2012

Sightseeing vessel grounds in Glacier Bay

The 79-foot sightseeing vessel Baranof Wind reportedly struck a rock and started taking on water in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on Aug. 19.

      According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, the Coast Guard, National Park Service and good Samaritans responded and evacuated 72 people from the vessel, leaving four crewmembers behind to tend the vessel.

      The good Samaritans were crewmembers from a nearby cruise ship, Holland America’s 780-foot Volendam. It launched a small boat to transfer passengers from Baranof Wind to the safety of the ship. The crewmembers from the ship successfully transferred 70 people to Volendam and the National Park Service vessel took aboard two passengers.

      Coast Guard Air Station Sitka launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to deliver a dewatering pump to the National Park Service responders so they could keep the sightseeing vessel afloat.

      Flooding on the vessel had been contained, and an anchor was deployed to help stabilize Baranof Wind. A few minor injuries were reported. There were no reports of pollution as a result of this incident. The disabled vessel was later towed to Allen Marine in Sitka for repairs.


St. Marys River traffic halts as result of grounded bulk carrier

The 1,014-foot self-unloading bulk carrier Paul R. Tregurtha ran aground in the St. Marys River on the west side of Neebish Island, Mich., on Aug. 15. The grounded vessel spanned the entire width of the downbound channel, blocking vessel traffic for more than a day.

      According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the owner of Paul R. Tregurtha, Interlake Shipping Company of Ohio, worked with Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie and the Salvage Engineering Response Team to determine the safest approach to refloating the vessel.

      The vessel was carrying approximately 62,000 tons of coal.

      According to the Coast Guard press release, “The initial grounding occurred in way of the vessel’s bow but the ship pivoted and the stern became grounded as well.” Efforts to refloat the vessel included pumping ballast water from the bow to the stern.

      There were no reports of injury or pollution, but Paul R. Tregurtha did sustain damage to its bow. By the time the channel was reopened, 11 vessels were waiting to proceed.


Body of missing sternwheeler crewmember found

A crewmember of the 221-foot sternwheeler Queen of the West fell overboard near Rainier, Ore., on Aug. 7. His body was found in the Columbia River near Longview, Wash., on Aug. 12 and has been identified as that of  Andre Staples, a cook for Queen of the West.

      Crewmembers aboard Queen of the West contacted U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River at approximately 0110 on Aug. 7 via VHF channel 16 to report a male member of their crew had fallen from the stern of the vessel while the boat was moored at a dock in Rainier. Witnesses reportedly saw Staples surface once before they lost sight of him.

      The Coast Guard reported that they searched approximately 10 square miles for a combined six hours before calling off the search. Assisting the Coast Guard were Columbia County marine assets and the crew of the tugboat Maverick.


Tour boat strikes dock on Chicago River, 9 injured

A Wendella Boat Tour vessel crashed into a concrete dock on the Chicago River near the Michigan Avenue bridge at about 1735 on Aug. 6.

      Lila lost power while pulling in and then collided at full speed with the concrete dock, the Chicago Tribune reported. “We realized it was coming in too fast,” said passenger Fern Furst. “It crashed and people on both the upper and lower deck went flying.”

      The Chicago Fire Department reported the boat had about 150 passengers on board. Nine passengers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Eleven people at the scene refused treatment.

      Wendella suspended boat tours following the accident. The tour boat company and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating the cause of the engine failure. Lila was recently delivered to Wendella by Blount Boats of Rhode Island.


Casualty flashback: September 1860

Lady Elgin, a 252-foot sidewheel steamship, was a luxurious passenger boat on Lake Michigan that was transporting hundreds of excursionists, a Milwaukee militia group, to a Democratic Party rally in Chicago. On their way back home, on Sept. 8, 1860, in dark and heavy weather, Lady Elgin was struck by the 126-foot two-masted schooner Augusta. The watch crew on Lady Elgin did not see the oncoming vessel, as Augusta had no visible running lights.

      A half hour before the collision, the second mate of Augusta, on watch, saw the steamer’s lights, and for 20 minutes no orders were given, according to a report on the collision from Great Lakes Maritime Press.

         The damaged Augusta continued on its way to Chicago and Lady Elgin sank within 20 minutes in 300 feet of water, about nine miles off Winnetka, Ill., at 0230. There had only been time to lower two lifeboats; 18 survivors reached shore in them. There were 393 passengers aboard Lady Elgin, and 98 survived. The rest of the survivors made it to shore by floating on pieces of wreckage.

         According to the Lady Elgin Foundation, the sunken Lady Elgin was finally located in 1989, by Harry Zych, of the American Diving & Salvage Co., who was awarded ownership in 1999 after a protracted legal battle. In 1999 Lady Elgin’s remains were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

        Augusta had subsequently been renamed Colonel Cook due to superstitions about the vessel being bad luck. Four years after the disaster, a new rule required sailing vessels to carry running lights.


By Professional Mariner Staff