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Man rescued from buoy after Canadian tanker hits stalled boat

Aug 29, 2017 12:54 PM
Crew aboard Esta Desgagnes tried to take evasive action after the powerboat stalled in Lake St. Clair, but the ship was limited in what it could do because it had to stay in the channel.

Courtesy Groupe Desgagnes

Crew aboard Esta Desgagnes tried to take evasive action after the powerboat stalled in Lake St. Clair, but the ship was limited in what it could do because it had to stay in the channel.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a man from Lake St. Clair north of Detroit, Mich., after a loaded tanker ran into his stranded powerboat in the shipping channel.

The Canadian-flagged Esta Desgagnes hit the 17-foot powerboat at about 1115 on June 4, roughly two miles east of Grosse Pointe Farms. The recreational boat sank shortly after the impact and its lone occupant clung to a fixed aid to navigation, awaiting rescue. He was not injured.

“He seems to have lost power while in the channel, and the tank vessel did all it could to avoid it,” Coast Guard Lt. Benjamin Chamberlain said in a recent phone interview. “This does not seem to be a situation involving negligence but perhaps a lack of familiarity with the (powerboat). He lost power while in the channel at the wrong time.”

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, but as of mid-June the cause was still undetermined.

The 406-foot Esta Desgagnes was heading south with a load of diesel for an Ontario fuel terminal when it struck the powerboat. The tanker’s port call prior to the accident was in Sarnia, Ontario, in the St. Clair River.

The recreational boat apparently lost engine power just before the accident happened, leaving the ship little time to avoid the impact. Crew aboard the tanker saw the boater checking on the engine while stuck in the channel.

“The ship did try evasive action, altering course to port to hug the left side of the channel as the recreational vessel was in their path,” Chamberlain said. “It was limited to the channel as the water depth outside the lane was only 14 feet. Esta Desgagnes’ draft was more than 20 feet.”

The boater jumped from the powerboat before it was hit by the tanker. Chamberlain described the impact as “glancing but intense.” Authorities have not identified the boater, who swam to the nearby fixed navigation aid.

The master on Esta Desgagnes notified the Coast Guard immediately after the accident. The agency sent a rescue craft from nearby Station St. Clair Shores, with the vessel reaching the man within 20 minutes of the collision.

Groupe Desgagnes of Quebec City owns Esta Desgagnes, a 70,000-barrel oil and chemical tanker operated by its subsidiary Petro-Nav Inc. of Montreal. A Groupe Desgagnes spokesman declined to comment on the accident.

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