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Three die after tanker, fishing boat collide in fog near Galveston

Mar 3, 2020 04:01 PM
The stern of the 81-foot Pappy’s Pride floats above the waterline next to the vessel’s inflatable life raft after a collision with the chemical tanker Bow Fortune near the Galveston jetties on Jan. 14.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The stern of the 81-foot Pappy’s Pride floats above the waterline next to the vessel’s inflatable life raft after a collision with the chemical tanker Bow Fortune near the Galveston jetties on Jan. 14.

One fisherman died and two are missing and presumed dead after a chemical tanker and fishing boat collided near Galveston, Texas, in heavy fog.

The 600-foot, Norway-flagged Bow Fortune hit the 81-foot Pappy’s Pride on Jan. 14 at about 1555 inside the Galveston jetties. All four people aboard Pappy’s Pride ended up in the water, and the vessel later sank just outside the navigation channel.

The pilot vessel Yellow Rose operated by the Houston Pilots rescued one crewmember who was treated later for non-life-threatening injuries. A Coast Guard crew from Galveston recovered an unresponsive crewmember from the water who later died. Two others were not found after an extensive multiday search. Members of the fishing crew involved have not been identified.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the collision. The cause has not been determined.

As of press time in mid-January, authorities had shared few details about the incident. It is not known if Pappy’s Pride was underway, where the two vessels made contact, or whether they communicated over radio before impact. The Coast Guard released a photo showing an inflated life raft near the mostly submerged fishing vessel, but none of the crew made it inside, Coast Guard spokeswoman Johanna Strickland said.

The incident occurred in the Galveston Bay Entrance Channel about a mile from the easternmost end of the jetties. Pappy’s Pride went down with about 14,000 gallons of fuel on board, and authorities noticed sheening on the water near its sunken hull.

Odfjell Ship Management of Bergen, Norway, operates Bow Fortune. The company issued a statement acknowledging its ship “made contact” with the fishing vessel near the entrance to Galveston Bay.

“At the time of the incident, Bow Fortune was inbound and under pilotage as first vessel in a convoy,” said Harald Fotland, chief operating officer of Odfjell SE. “There was heavy fog in the area.”

The National Weather Service issued a dense fog alert for Galveston Bay and parts of the western Gulf of Mexico less than an hour before the collision. Similar conditions continued for several days, hampering rescue efforts.

Local, state and federal authorities, joined by numerous good Samaritan vessels, searched 49 square miles before suspending the search on Jan. 16. By that point, the Coast Guard said, conditions were likely no longer survivable for the missing mariners. Water temperatures near the entrance to Galveston Bay are typically in the low 60s in January.

Authorities have not identified the pilot aboard Bow Fortune at the time of the collision. A spokesman for the Houston Pilots said the group did not have any personnel on the ship. The Galveston-Texas City Pilots did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The 20-year-old tanker was fully intact after the collision, its managers said. There was no pollution from the ship and its crew was uninjured.

After the body of the first victim was recovered, Odfjell Ship Management said it was saddened by the death and offered “heartfelt condolences” to the fisherman’s family. “We are also deeply concerned about the reports that two of the crewmembers on the fishing boat are still missing,” Fotland said. The company vowed to cooperate with the investigation.

The Coast Guard established a unified command in response to the sinking. Initial response efforts included placing boom around the mostly submerged hull and searching along the nearby shoreline for signs of pollution. Some sheening spotted around the vessel was determined to be unrecoverable, and nearby beaches were free of oil in the days immediately following the incident.

Bow Fortune was en route to Texas after several U.S. port calls, most recently in Lake Charles, La., after stops in Southport, N.C., and Wilmington, Del. The ship moored in Galveston after the collision.

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