A port authority’s patrol boat sank in a New York bay after a police officer mistakenly opened an inspection hatch below the waterline.
A Moose Boat M2-37 operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sank off Queens, N.Y., on Sept. 10, 2012. The accident happened at about 1600 off Breezy Point.
“Something in the engine began to malfunction and, at the direction of one of the independent contractors who was on the boat, one of our officers removed an engine cover. The boat filled with water and began to sink,” agency spokesman Steve Coleman said.
Eight Port Authority police officers and three ocean rescue instructors aboard the Moose Boat were able to swim safely several hundred yards to shore, Coleman said. The officers had been taking part in rescue swimmer training, so some were already in the water wearing dive gear including buoyancy compensators. Those still on board wore life jackets for the swim to shore.
The 37-foot boat was purchased in 2008 for $500,000 and was primarily used for patrol, rescue and training around John F. Kennedy International Airport. It was raised the next day by a salvage company and is being repaired, Coleman said.
After the sinking, the manufacturer sent a warning letter to Moose Boats customers.
“The cause of the vessel’s sinking was a result of the crew removing the Hamilton Jet impeller inspection hatch in an attempt to cut free a suspected line caught in the impeller,” the letter said. “The impeller inspection hatch is below the waterline by several inches and is only intended for servicing access with the vessel out of the water. The crew were unable to replace the impeller inspection hatch cover due to the large volume of the water entering the engine compartment through the open impeller inspection port. The watertight Freeman deck hatch on the swim grid may have remained removed creating a full flood condition of the hull as the buoyancy diminished.”
“The impeller inspection hatch is ONLY to be removed with the vessel out of the water,” said the letter.
“We have never had a previous report of this issue,” said Abbie Walther, vice president and general manager of Moose Boats.