Posted: Friday, September 12, 2003

Boat accident remains under investigation

JUNEAU - Both local police and the U.S. Coast Guard continue to investigate a recreational boating accident last Friday night at the Auke Bay harbor that left one woman in a coma.

The boat, identified by the U.S. Coast Guard as the Reel Time, sank after hitting the concrete breakwater. The initial investigation identified speed and alcohol as possible factors in the accident, police said.

Police Capt. Tom Porter said Thursday no charges had been filed, and the incident remains under investigation.

Coast Guard Lt. Gary Koehler, senior investigating officer at the Marine Safety Office in Juneau, said he had not completed his investigation.

Police reported that the 38-year-old operator of the boat and two local passengers, a 23-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, were injured. The woman, police reported, was flown to a Seattle hospital due to the severity of her injuries.

Koehler said Thursday she left Juneau in a comatose state, and the last he had checked, she remained in a coma.

The Associated Press identified the woman as Brenna Hall. It identified the boat's operator as James Backer.

The other passenger was treated for a broken arm and minor lacerations, while the operator was treated for a whiplash-type injury, Koehler said.

Local police normally have jurisdiction in such accidents involving recreational vessels, he said. The Coast Guard has the authority to take on cases where safety issues are involved.

Both Koehler and Porter said the police and Coast Guard would be sharing information. Koehler said that criminal charges would come from police, but the Coast Guard has the authority to issue citations for civil penalties.

SE Conference starts Sept. 15 in Haines

JUNEAU - Lawmakers, city officials, business leaders and community organizations are gearing up for the 46th annual meeting of the Southeast Conference, to be held this year in Haines.

The conference runs Sept. 15-18 and will include presentations and roundtable discussions on tourism, transportation and the timber, mining and fishing industries.

Southeast Conference was formed in 1958 to advocate for the establishment of a marine highway system in Alaska but has since evolved into a coalition of community and governmental organizations that promote economic development of Southeast.

Scheduled speakers include: Gov. Frank Murkowski; Lt. Gov. Loren Leman; Lance Miller, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council; Todd Saunders, president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce; Edgar Blatchford, commissioner of the Department of Community and Economic Development and Tom Briggs, deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

533-pound halibut landed off St. Paul

ANCHORAGE - What might be the largest Pacific halibut ever documented was pulled from the Bering Sea off St. Paul Island on Sept. 5 by the crew of the fishing boat Miss Mary.

The 8-foot, 2-inch behemoth was estimated at 533 pounds - based on its length, according to crewman Barry Davis of Anchorage, who provided photographs of the fish taken aboard the long liner skippered by his brother, Pat, from Seattle.

No official records are kept on the size of commercially caught halibut in Alaska, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Notebook Series says the "largest ever recorded for the Northern Pacific was a 495-pound fish caught near Petersburg."

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which manages halibut in the North Pacific, pegs the largest fish at an estimated 500 pounds. According to an IPHC publication: "In 1974, an 8 foot, age 33 female was caught commercially in the Bering Sea, weighing 375 pounds gutted and estimated at 500 pounds whole."

The fish caught earlier this month was two inches longer, at 98 inches.

Barry Davis said he'd never seen anything quite like this fish.

"It took all five of us to get it on board," Davis said.

Veco head Allen stays on lobbyist list

ANCHORAGE - The head of Veco Corp. has lost a bid to get off the state's lobbyist list and be free of special limits on political fund-raising and campaign giving.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday postponed until its December meeting a decision on the request to get off the list by Bill Allen, who heads the Anchorage construction firm.

Limits on his campaign activities were set to expire in January anyway. But Allen will be forced to ride the bench for most of the 2003 political money season, which is heating up in advance of elections next year.

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