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Fishing boat sinks after collision with tender

Crew, captain departed boat unhurt

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2002

The Coast Guard is investigating a vessel collision Tuesday night in Lynn Canal in which a boat sank. No one was hurt in the incident.

In heavy fog a 51-foot fishing tender, the Ola Jean, collided with a 35-foot commercial fishing boat, the Riptide, 20 miles north of Juneau near Point Whidbey.

The captain and crewman of the Riptide safely boarded the tender before their boat sank. The Riptide was carrying about 100 gallons of fuel. The Coast Guard has not yet determined the cause of the incident.

"I was walking on deck at about 11:45 and I seen a boat coming," said Marty Smith, the Riptide owner and captain, who gillnets out of Haines. Smith estimated the other boat was traveling at a speed of 7 to 9 knots.

Most boats are equipped with radar that helps them avoid collisions in fog. Smith would not say whether his or the tender's radar systems were operational.

"Yeah, the boats have radar," Smith said, "But that's about all I'm going to say about that."

According to state licensing records, the Ola Jean is the property of Pankof Records, an Olympia, Wash., business owned by Rich LeMay. LeMay captained the tender the night of the collision. He did not respond to attempts to contact him this morning.

The Ola Jean was tendering for World Seafood Producers of Juneau. Scott Echols, owner of World Seafood Producers, said the Ola Jean was not seriously damaged when it struck the Riptide's stern. According to Echols, LeMay was heading back to port in Juneau because of the bad weather.

"With radar, you are going to get blind spots, and that's a fact. ... For the record, the fog was so thick you couldn't hardly see in front of you," Echols said. "The important thing is that nobody got hurt. That's the big, big deal."

The Ola Jean docked in Haines early Wednesday morning. Officials from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office are investigating.

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.



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