FISHING VESSEL SINKS OFF AMERICAN SAMOA

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Crew escapes flames

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 26, 2009) – In American Samoa, the Fishing Vessel "Cape Elizabeth", formerly the "Tradition" sank on Dec. 20 after a fire reportedly started in the galley. All 22 crew members aboard were safely evacuated according to accounts from witnesses and the US Coast Guard report issued Thursday.

Eddie DaCosta, former Chief Engineer on the Cape Elizabeth commented on the website tunaseiners.com, "The captain told me that some of the crew’s shoes were melting from the heat of the deck as they were waiting to get into the skiff. They were picked up by another one of their company boats, Cape Breton, It’s too bad, she was a great ship, extremely well built."

At this point it is believed the fire started in the galley and consumed the whole boat within 24 hours. F/V Cape Elizabeth was a tuna purse seiner fishing in the Western Pacific Ocean.

According to DaCosta the boat was built by J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding in Tacoma, Washington as the "Tradition" for Manuel Silva Inc in San Diego in 1980.

The Cape Elizabeth was purchased from Silva by the Chen Family in Taiwan who operated it for a few years before selling it to Tri-Marine.

Tri-Marine operates several US Vessels out of American Samoa and is based in Seattle.

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu and Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) American Samoa have the lead for the investigation.

The 14th Coast Guard District command center reported that the F/V Cape Elizabeth, a 238ft commercial fishing vessel, sunk 750 miles north of American Samoa in approximately 2900 fathoms, Dec. 20, 2009.

There was a fire reported onboard the vessel; however, all 22 crew members got off the vessel safely. They were transported back to American Samoa by their sister vessel, F/V Cape Breton. At the time of incident, Cape Elizabeth had approximately 50,000 gallons of diesel onboard, but there is no visible sheen in the area, the report said.

Coast Guard personnel will continue to monitor the situation from Honolulu and investigate from MSD America Samoa.

According to the report signed by PA3 Mike De Nyse, the Coast Guard investigators said that they will need to rely primarily on crew’s interviews to ascertain what happened, because the vessel sunk in very deep water. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation.

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