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Grounded fishing boat sinks, officials evaluating environmental threat
While the fate of a fishing boat that ran near Decatur Island appears to be settled, state and federal officials have yet to determine whether draining the sunken vessel of its fuel load would be worth the risk.
According to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Nathan Bradshaw, the owner of the TW Legacy, which ran aground early Saturday morning while traveling through Thatcher Pass, said that the boat could have been carrying between 50 to 400 gallons of diesel at the time it struck the rocks and then sank near Decatur Island.
Bradshaw said the Legacy ran aground about 2 a.m. Sunday, sometime after its captain fell asleep while at the wheel.
Based in La Conner, the 62-foot commercial fishing boat slid down an embankment after its 6-person crew had been rescued by the Coast Guard in the wake of the collision and then came to rest about 85 feet below the surface. A sheen of oil was visible in the area where the boat went down.
The Coast Guard and officials with the state Department of Ecology were on scene Tuesday to evaluate the sunken boat's environmental risks.
Bradshaw said divers, aided by side-scan sonar, were able to pinpoint the boat's location and are assessing whether making an attempt to retrieve its fuel load would pose greater risk to the environment. He said there are currently no plans to recover the vessel.
"It's not a real common situation," he said, noting that determining how much fuel is in its tanks and the threat the boat poses is complicated because of its depth. "They're trying to determine a recovery can be executed soundly."
— Editor's note: Below is the story of the TW Legacy's grounding posted Sunday on SanJuanJournal.com
Six people were rescued from a 62-foot commercial fishing boat after it ran aground Saturday near Decatur Island, shortly after 2 a.m.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent a cutter to the site of the stranded fishing vessel after receiving a distress call from the crew of the TW Legacy at about 2:30 a.m. The six-person crew was taken onboard the Cutter Terrapin, stationed in Bellingham, after it arrived on scene. No injuries were reported.
According to the Coast Guard, the TW Legacy was traveling through Thatcher Pass, located between Decatur and Blakely islands, when it ran aground. Its crew was then transferred onboard a 33-foot Coast Guard Special Purpose Craft about five hours later and expected to arrive at the Coast Guard station in Bellinghman sometime before noon.
The Terrapin remained at the scene of the grounded boat until a Coast Guard helicopter arrived from Port Angeles to evaluate the scene for potential pollution. A Ballard-based salvage and diving company was expect to arrive at the scene later in the day to recover the fishing boat.