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Cops discover water 'accident' was actually boat abandonment

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

An overturned boat in Lynn Canal authorities thought might be from a boating accident turned out to be abandoned property.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified about 7 p.m. Tuesday by a skipper transiting Lynn Canal that he had seen a red and white fiberglass boat, upside down. Searchers looked until dark and resumed the search Wednesday, locating the 22-foot Reinell about 6 p.m. 28 miles northwest of Juneau.

They attempted to tow it back to town, but about an hour later, the eye bolt through which the tow line was threaded popped, said Petty Officer Darrell Wilson. The crew also attempted to right the boat, but found that the owner, Jonathan Stetson of Juneau, had taken the vessel out three weeks ago and sunk it, Wilson said.

Abandoning efforts to salvage the boat, they attached a strobe light to it, and issued a hazard to navigation broadcast of its last known location.

Stetson could not be reached for comment today.

There are designated areas specified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where boats can be legally sunk as artificial reefs. But permits are required, Coast Guard Petty Officer Roger Wetherell said, and permits for fiberglass boats are difficult to come by.

A Coast Guard investigator is consulting the Environmental Protection Agency. If the boat pollutes, Stetson is in big trouble, Wetherell said.

``Pollution response costs might be sought, at $27,500 per response,'' Wetherell said.

``Obviously, it's a navigation hazard. And (the owner) could be held liable if another boat runs into it and is damaged. It is not savvy environmental stewardship'' to sink boats without permits, and ``it takes our crews away from emergency responses,'' Wetherell said.



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