Whale watch boat runs aground; two suffer minor injuries

Two passengers suffered minor injuries when a Friday Harbor-based commercial whale watch boat ran aground in Wasp Passage Sunday afternoon.

A total of 12 people, ten passengers and two crew members, were onboard the Western Prince II when the 46-foot power vessel struck a reef off the southeast side of Crane Island, at about 3 p.m.

Within an hour of the grounding, the passengers had been transferred to the Western Explorer, a sister boat of the Western Prince II, which carried all 10 back to Friday Harbor.

Two passengers complaining of pain were transported by EMS ambulance to Peace Island Medical Center, according to Sheriff Rob Nou, where they were treated for bumps and bruises, and then released.

The Coast Guard was immediately notified of the collision by captain Craig Melvin, who was piloting the boat at the time. After numerous pleasure boats came alongside to assist and Melvin reported that the Western Explorer would return the passengers to Friday Harbor, U.S. Coast Guard Bellingham decided not to send one of its station boats to assist.

The Western Prince II was re-floated with a rising tide about 12 hours later and proceeded under its own power to Friday Harbor. The boat sustained minor hull damage, according to Western Prince Cruises owner Ivan Reiff. It was inspected by the Coast Guard April 22 and released to proceed under its own power to a Port Townsend shipyard for repair.

After repairs and Coast Guard inspection, Reiff said the boat will be returned to service "in about two weeks," adding that he would search for a temporary replacement while the boat is under repair.

The incident remains under investigation by the Coast Guard.

— Steve Werhly



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