Owner of capsized boat says load of explosives shifted on skipper

U.S. Coast Guard investigation into sinking may take weeks

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007

The official investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard could take weeks to explain what caused a 61-foot landing craft with 21 tons of explosive material to capsize then sink Tuesday in Lynn Canal. However, the boat's owner has his own theory.

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"I think the load shifted on the skipper," said Mitch Falk, owner of Gumption Leasing.

Gumption, a Juneau company, is the registered owner of the Pegasus and has an Auke Bay address.

The two containers containing blasting caps were bound for Comet Beach and the Kensington Mine when the ship sank.

Tony Ebersole, spokesman for Couer d'Alene Mines, said that Couer Alaska had not taken possession of the cargo since the incident.

"We're just glad that no one was hurt," he said.

Coast Guard Spokesman Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane said the cargo was transferred to Kensington Mine on Wednesday morning after spending the night on the beach in Sunshine Cove. The explosives were under guard, Lane said.

According to the Coast Guard, the boat sank in 50 feet of water. Salvage of the vessel was underway Wednesday.

Falk wouldn't say exactly how much fuel was on board the Pegasus. "I know how much it holds," he said. At the time it sank the Pegasus did "not have much on board," he said.

The Pegasus had 1,200 gallons of diesel on board when it sank. No fuel had leaked from the tanks, Lane said.

The Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Safety are supervising the salvage hoping to ensure there were no fuel leaks, Lane said.

The landing craft sank Tuesday shortly before 11:30 a.m.

Coast Guard video showed no oil spill containment devices Tuesday evening. Falk said the craft was contained as of Wednesday morning.

The skipper and one crew member were rescued by a good Samaritan vessel, Falk said.

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