Tender sinks near Valdez

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- Five crewmen were rescued Saturday when their fishing tender went down in Prince William Sound after apparently hitting a reef, the Coast Guard reported. It was the second sinking in the area in the last two weeks.

The crew were all from the Seattle area, according to the owners of the vessel, the Windy Bay. They were being taken to Valdez Saturday evening.

Several other vessels were in the vicinity when the 180-foot vessel ran aground, and they provided pumps to try to save it, said Lt. Keith Ropella of the Coast Guard in Valdez. The vessel ran aground off the northeast shore of Olsen Island, about 50 miles southeast of Valdez.

The ship got in trouble at 10:54 a.m. and immediately sent out a Mayday and contacted the Coast Guard.

''Until about 1:15 p.m., they were still on the rocks,'' Ropella said. ''But probably because the tide was rising, they drifted off the rocks, and the battle was lost fairly quickly.''

Tidal variation is about 15 feet in the area, Ropella said, and the bottom slopes off sharply. So sharply, the vessel ended up in about 1,000 feet of water.

Attempts were made to unload the vessel's roughly 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel even as the pumps battled the seawater, he said. The crew also tried to block the tank vents to contain the fuel. But those effort didn't succeed, and a sheen was reported in the area after the sinking.

The Windy Bay went down about seven miles for the site where another fishing vessel, the Vanguard, sank July 26, and a spill response team from Anchorage was working at the Vanguard site.

The owners of the Windy Bay contracted with the Anchorage-based spill response group, Alaska Chadux, and equipment was the moved to the area within an hour of the accident, the owners said.

''We are making every effort to protect environmentally sensitive areas and containing any material that might be released from the vessel,'' said Bob Heavilin, general manager of Alaska Chadux, in a statement released by the Windy Bay's owners.

The Coast Guard also arranged for two of the spill response vessels from the Valdez tanker terminal, one a skimmer, to aid in containing the spill, Ropella of the Coast Guard said. Those vessels were heading for the scene Saturday evening.

The Windy Bay works as a crabber in the Bering Sea during the winter, said Janet Hansen, a spokeswoman for one of the owners, Ralph Hansen of Sumner, Wash. It was tendering for the pink salmon fishery in Prince William Sound.

''We are very glad our crew is safe and we are doing our best to keep the waters of Prince William Sound clean,'' said co-owner Ralph Hansen.

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