Tug master drowns after tender he was operating capsizes in surf

Jul 21, 2008 12:00 AM

A tugboat captain working offshore in Guam was killed when his small tender capsized in heavy surf. The Coast Guard said the captain couldn’t swim and wasn’t wearing a life vest.
James Scarborough, 31, drowned as a result of the accident that occurred at 0530 on April 4, the Coast Guard said.


Scarborough was the captain of the oceangoing tug June T, which was involved in a wastewater-pipe project in Hagatna Boat Basin. He and one of his crew were on their way out to the tug in the 25-foot tender for a routine crew change when the casualty happened.

“There were some pretty good breaking waves that day — about 6 feet,” said Coast Guard investigator Lt. Marcus Hirschberg. “Their boat got caught broadside by one of the waves coming in. The boat capsized, and (Scarborough) was not wearing a life jacket, and he couldn’t swim.”

The other crewman, who was wearing a life jacket, was able to swim to shore in the darkness. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.

Scarborough was piloting the boat on the half-mile voyage out toward the Philippine Sea to the tug anchorage. He had been the captain of June T for over a year, Hirschberg said. The crews frequently used the 25-foot boat with a small cabin for their crew changes.

The capsizing happened about 200 yards from shore near a breakwater, in the vicinity of a buoy that marks the harbor entrance.

Scarborough’s body was found the next day in about 45 feet of water. A medical examiner’s autopsy revealed that he had drowned very quickly. The water temperature was 83 degrees.
The 186-foot June T was operating as part of a Guam Waterworks Authority project to install new pipes for treated sewage at Hagatna, the territory’s capital. The U.S.-flagged tug had a role in another casualty there just four months earlier, when its barge Tamara 5 went aground atop a coral reef and four crew ended up in the water. All were rescued.

June T is owned and operated by the construction contractor IBC Guam, according to the Coast Guard and the GWA.

Hirschberg said the incident illustrates the importance of caution and the wearing of life vests when operating in or around surf. “One should be extremely cautious when approaching those breaking waves — and wearing the proper life jackets,” Hirschberg said.
Scarborough, a resident of Guam, was a native of Mississippi.
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