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Monday, October 22, 2007

Collision off Coney Island

A collision between a tug and tow and a small (24') private fishing boat claimed the lives of two men the other day. I believe it happened Friday or Saturday. Photo above is a stock, public domain picture from with no connection to the story, nonetheless relevant in that it helps demonstrate who's the big dog in a match-up between certain vessels at sea.

Two men survived the accident. They were plucked from the Atlantic and airlifted to an area hospital.

New York waters have seen their share of tragic collisions between commercial vessels and small recreational power and sail boats. In the majority of situations the cause of the incident can be traced to operator error on the part of the master of the recreational boat.

The area off Coney Island is particular heavy with commercial coastal traffic as many tugs with oil barges in tow transit the area.

Meanwhile, it was a year ago to the date the Coast Guard released the following report on another fatal collision off Roanoke Pt. Shoals in Long Island Sound, approximately 80 miles to the east. In this case, the photo is relevant.

One Dead, Two Rescued After Vessels Collide in Long Island Sound

NEW HAVEN, Conn.--A woman is dead and two men were rescued following an early morning collision between a 600-foot freighter and a 92-foot sailboat five miles north of Roanoke Point Shoals in Long Island Sound, 4:00 this morning. Roanoke Point Shoals is located north of Riverhead, N.Y., along Long Island's North Shore.

A Coast Guard rescue boat from Station New Haven recovered two of the three-person sailboat crew and transferred them to local EMS. The woman was pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital. A man was being treated for mild hypothermia. The third crewman, the sailboat captain, was rescued by the freighter's small boat and was transported by the Coast Guard rescue boat to shore. He is reportedly in good physical condition.

The 600-foot coal carrier BARKALD was transiting outbound to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Bridgeport, Conn., and a 92-foot sailing vessel was transiting inbound to Greenwich, Conn., when the collision occurred. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound received the initial call at 4:04 a.m. and immediately launched a rescue boat from Station New Haven. The Coast Guard rescue crew arrived on scene at 4:29 a.m. Seas were reported at two-to-three feet.

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Long Island Sound ordered the Marshall Islands-flagged BARKALD to a New Haven anchorage area pending the start of an investigation. As is standard for all marine incidents, the Coast Guard ordered drug and alcohol screening of the BARKALD's crew.

The sailing vessel sank with 600 gallons of diesel onboard. The Coast Guard is monitoring for potential pollution from this incident.

This situation is probably a little different than the first in that the 92' yacht was most likely professionally crewed. This doesn't necessarily make the master of the yacht more knowledgeable or experienced than the master of the small recreational fishing boat, but if you had to choose one skill set over the other I think it would be safe to choose the master of the yacht's.

If anything, the collisions show the cost of complacency and over confidence, regardless of who is finally determined to be at fault, if any fault is found. Sometimes, circumstances conspire against mariners in insidious ways.


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