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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Fishing Boat Capsizes off Oregon's Coast

Aired June 14, 2003 - 16:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Tragedy off the coast of Oregon, where a charter fishing boat carrying 19 people capsized in rough, 15-foot waves. Nine people died, and the death toll could rise. Petty Officer Robert Lanier with the U.S. Coast Guard joins us now on the phone. Mr. Lanier, thanks very much for joining us. Right now, the search is still on for one person still missing?
PETTY OFFICER ROBERT LANIER, U.S. COAST GUARD: Actually, the search is on for two people that are still missing. There were 19 people on board. We do have 17 that have been recovered.

WHITFIELD: And how many of those 17 are being hospitalized or were hospitalized a bit earlier today?

LANIER: There were eight that were hospitalized. They were taken to Tillamook County general hospital.

WHITFIELD: And what were their conditions? I understand the water is very cold, it's very rough. And many of these people may have been suffering from hypothermia, is that correct?

LANIER: That's the initial -- that's the initial estimate. The water temperature was 52 degrees. The swells were 10 to 15 feet. And there were seven to eight knot winds, which is about seven or eight miles an hour. They were immediately treated for potential hypothermia, which would occur in 52-degree water, and immediately rushed to the hospital.

WHITFIELD: Now, how far off the coast were they?

LANIER: Actually, they were not that far off the coast. There's a jetty that actually goes out and protects the incoming traffic. And they were just off of the jetty in Tillamook Bay.

WHITFIELD: So, were there witnesses that saw what happened? How did you know how to respond as quickly as the Coast Guard did?

LANIER: Actually, there was someone that did witness the charter vessel capsized, and they immediately contacted the Coast Guard on channel 16 and the Coast Guard immediately launched 2-47 (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) life boats from the Coast Guard station in Tillamook. They also launched two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from the Coast Guard area station in Astoria, Oregon as well as an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from the air facility in Newport, Oregon.

WHITFIELD: And those rescue helicopters facilitated the rescue of many of those eight that were hospitalized?

LANIER: Yes, they did.

WHITFIELD: And what's your understanding as to how this even happened?

LANIER: Again, I don't want to speculate as to how it happened. It will be under investigation by the Coast Guard, and eventually our goal is to find out why did this happen, and again to prevent it from happening.

WHITFIELD: Well, there were initial reports that perhaps the boat may have hit a wave the wrong way. Does that lead you to believe initially that perhaps the conditions were just too choppy to have such a size vessel with so many people on board out in the bay?

LANIER: Well, again, we'll take all witnesses' accounts into event, and, again, just -- it will be under investigation. So we'll hopefully the answers will come out through an investigation, and through that investigation, again, we'll see if we can prevent this from ever happening again.

WHITFIELD: And Petty Officer Lanier, what do you understand about the people, the 19 people who were originally on board? Is it true that they were members of, perhaps, as little as two families?

LANIER: I don't know the names or the exact relations of the 19 people on board. So I wouldn't have that information.

WHITFIELD: All right. Petty Officer Robert Lanier, thank you very much for joining us and updating us on the capsizing of that 32- foot fishing vessel off the coast of Oregon.

LANIER: You're welcome.

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