Coast Guard rescues 5 fishermen, responds to fuel spill on Columbia River

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WARRENTON, Ore. — The Coast Guard rescued five fishermen from the 78-foot fishing vessel Titan after it grounded and began to take on water off of the A-jetty on the north side of the Columbia River near Ilwaco, Washington, Friday.

A Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew responded to the situation, safely removed the fisherman after dewatering efforts failed and took them back to the station.

Fishermen aboard the fishing vessel Titan prepare to abandon ship after their vessel grounded on a jetty and began to sink on the Columbia River, off of Ilwaco, Wash., Dec. 5, 2014. The Titan eventually sank at the location and the owner has contracted a company to clean up any pollution and to salvage the vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah Wolf)

Fishermen aboard the fishing vessel Titan prepare to abandon ship after their vessel grounded on a jetty and began to sink on the Columbia River, off of Ilwaco, Wash., Dec. 5, 2014 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah Wolf)

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received a distress call at 2:16 a.m. from the fishing vessel crew stating that they had grounded and were taking on water in their engine room. The watchstanders directed the launch of the MLB crew from Cape Disappointment and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, Oregon.

Once on scene with the fishing vessel, the MLB crew transferred a dewatering pump to the vessel crew, but they were unable to keep up with the flooding. At that time, they put on their immersion suits, lowered their anchor to help secure the vessel and then abandoned their vessel onto the MLB. There were no injuries reported by the fishermen.

“The professionalism of the fishing vessel crew was a huge factor in this case,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Elizabeth Wakefield, operations specialist and Sector Columbia River search and rescue coordinator. “Their ability to stay calm and professional in a stressful situation helped our crews get to them in a quick manner, while ensuring their personal safety.”

The vessel was reportedly carrying 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel at the time of the incident. The smell of diesel fuel has been reported in the area, as well as a visible sheen on the water. The amount of fuel released is unknown at this time.

The boat’s owner has contracted with Global Diving and Salvage to clean up the fuel and conduct salvage operations. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the grounding and will monitor the salvage operations. An overflight of the scene by a Coast Guard helicopter is planned.

The vessel is homeported in Warrenton, and was reportedly carrying 40 to 50,000 pounds of Dungeness crab.

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