Fishing boat sinks near Point Roberts, 5 rescued

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 6, 2013 

POINT ROBERTS - Good Samaritans rescued five people from a sinking commercial fishing boat Thursday afternoon, Sept. 5, off the coast of Point Roberts.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the 50-foot wooden vessel, Sea Breaker, in distress at 3:35 p.m., said Coast Guard Lt. Raphael Sadowitz. Other fishermen in the area saved the five crew members about 2 1/2 miles southeast of Point Roberts, where the water is close to 200 feet deep. None among the rescued crew needed medical aid.

Dustin Terpening, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology, said the boat capsized before sinking, but authorities aren't sure why.

Sadowitz didn't know what the fishermen were fishing for. No details were available Friday about the rescuers.

Coast Guard records show the boat was built in 1951 by Harold Hanson Boat Co. in Washington. It's registered to Steven W. Christensen. A woman who picked up the phone at his Ferndale address said "he's not really allowed to talk" about what happened for insurance reasons.

The crew reported 800 gallons of diesel fuel and about 25 gallons of lube oil on board. A Coast Guard helicopter flew over the site at 6 p.m. Thursday and observed a mile-long oil sheen.

There will be no noticeable impact to shoreline habitat, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oil containment equipment was deployed Friday in the general area where the vessel sank, according to the Department of Ecology.

Ballard Diving & Salvage has been contracted for the cleanup. Their crews still need to figure out exactly where the boat landed on the sea floor, Terpening said.

"The deeper the water is," he added, "the tougher it is to recover."

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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