Coast Guard Investigating Charter Fishing Boat Sinking

WAUKEGAN, Ill. – The Coast Guard is continuing its investigation to determine why the charter fishing vessel “Fin Seeker” sank in severe weather two miles off the coast of Waukegan, Ill. in Lake Michigan on May 30.

According to Cmdr. Richard Reinemann, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, the marine casualty investigation “will look closely at all possible contributing factors and communicate lessons learned to help prevent future incidents, as well as determine whether any violations of law or regulations have occurred and whether remedial actions need to be taken.”

Reinemann as well stated that “information gathered in these investigations can play a role in changing or creating new laws or regulations, and in implementing new technologies to help prevent future casualties.”

Shortly before the 36-foot vessel was swamped by six to 10-foot seas and sank in 70 feet of water, the captain and six passengers were able to don life jackets and make a mayday call to the Coast Guard. When a Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter from Air Facility Waukegan arrived on scene, it found two clusters of three survivors and a single seventh survivor, the vessel’s Captain, struggling in the heavy seas. A rescue swimmer deployed from the helicopter into the seas, and finding the survivors becoming rapidly hypothermic, assisted in their rescue by the helicopter and by a Coast Guard rescue boat from Station Kenosha.

Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones, Captain of the Port for Lake Michigan, stated that “these seven survivors are alive today because they wore life jackets. In the majority of the roughly 700 fatalities which occur annually in U.S. small recreational and commercial vessel accidents, the failure to wear a life jacket is a significant factor.”

Jones also said that “this was very nearly a tragedy with seven fatalities. We consider near-misses like this precursor events and will investigate thoroughly so all our maritime partners can benefit from what we learn. We are thankful for the expert response by our boat and air crews, which ensured the survival of these seven individuals.”

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Lake Michigan is located in Milwaukee and is responsible for the thorough investigation of marine casualties throughout all of Lake Michigan.

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