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Authorities Hold Press Conference to Give Update on Capsized Boat

Aired June 14, 2003 - 19:24   ET


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: We interrupt "CAPITAL GANG" to take you to a live press conference that's taking place right now in Oregon on that capsized charter fishing boat which killed earlier -- nine people earlier today.
LT. CMDR. KARL MOORE, U.S. COAST GUARD: I'm the group surface operations officer.

First off, our condolences to the family and victims of this unfortunate incident this after -- or this morning.

And also to let you know the National Transportation and Safety Board will be conducting an investigation into this incident. So a lot of information can't be released due to the oncoming investigation. The Coast Guard will be assisting with that, and our office who will be in charge of that will be Marine Safety Office up in Portland, Oregon. OK?

The events unfolded as follows. At approximately 7:15, it was reported that the motor vessel "Taki Too," while transiting out of the bar, capsized with 19 people on board. We had one Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat on scene almost immediately. They were over here this side of the jetty. And we launched a second 47-foot motor lifeboat within five minutes.

Air Station Astoria launched two HH-60-J helicopters to aid in the search, and Air Station North Bend Astoria launched one HH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

There were also several others crews -- or agencies that assisted. They include Rockaway Water Rescue, Tillamook County General Hospital Ambulance Service, Bay City Fire Department, Tillamook County Sheriff, Garibaldi Fire and Rescue, and several civilians from the local area.

As far as we know, what happened is that the vessel, as it was transiting across the bar, was hit by a wave broadside and capsized immediately. All personnel on board were thrown in the water.

Due to the location of the accident, our 47-foot motor lifeboat was unable to get close enough to rescue any personnel. Most of the personnel and the craft washed up towards the beach and were covered -- recovered by various personnel in groups there.

One body was recovered by our 47-foot motor lifeboat. As it sits right now, there have been nine bodies recovered. There are eight survivors located over at the hospital. Their condition is fairly good right now. And there are two missing people from the boat.

We have an ongoing search with an HH-60-J helicopter and a 47- foot motor lifeboat.

I'll now introduce Master Chief Lars Kent. He is the officer in charge here at Station Tillamook Bay over in Garibaldi. I'll let you fill in anything else.

MASTER CHIEF LARS KENT, U.S. COAST GUARD: Right. Just couple of things I want to bring up. First off, I want to speak for all the men and women at Station Tillamook Bay and say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone that was on board today.

The second thing is, I want to commend the -- all the agencies that were involved. But I also want to commend the civilian personnel that were on the beach that assisted in a lot of the rescues today. We had a lot of professionals down there at the beach helping out, and helping people out of the water, but we also had a large contingency of good Samaritans who were down on the water helping get people out and assisting with any medical assistance that they could provide.

And I know for a fact at least the pastor of one of our local churches here, Bill Creech (ph), and some of the people that he was with down at the shore were helping out and probably got somewhere between four to eight of the people out of the water today.

Also, I want to point out that I think that it's exceptional that everybody used as good a judgment as they did. It's -- sometimes the rescuer mentality and sometimes the desire to want to help your fellow man that you see in distress overtakes you, and what you might have considered to be imprudent kind of goes out the window, and you end up jumping in to try to assist.

People considered their safety as well as took their desire of helping people out of the water into account and operated safely the entire time that they were doing it. (audio interrupt) with even more people losing their lives today, had they not exercised the judgment that they did.

And that's all that I had prepared to say. And we'd like to open it up to any questions that you might have at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything at all about what they went through or what happened out there?

KENT: We have not had an opportunity to interview any of the survivors, so I don't have an answer to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about the bar and the shallowness of the sand and the dredging issue that so many people were (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the danger of the surf (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

KENT: Well, I can tell you that they're shoaling on this bar, as well as any other bar. And the shallower the area is, the more prevalent they're going to -- the more chances that there's going to be surf. Beyond that, I can't really comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) public records (UNINTELLIGIBLE) problem (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you know anything at all about that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

KENT: No, I don't have any of that history. Like I mentioned before, if any of those issues are present, I was aware of any of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There could be 11 people dead (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Is this the worst type of boating accident you can recall along the Oregon coast?

KENT: Well, I won't speak for the Oregon coast, but from what I've been able to determine so far, it's one of the worst accidents that we've had here at Tillamook Bay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about the personal flotation devices on the boat, the requirements for a boat like that? Who was wearing them, who wasn't, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the safety aspects of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) regulations (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what you recommend?

KENT: Absolutely. They are required to carry life jackets on board. I'm positive that they had the required amount of life jackets on board. However, they're not required to have their passengers or their crew wear the life jackets as they're transiting out across the bar.

None of the people that were recovered just today that were not breathing were not wearing life jackets. Everybody that -- or some of the people that were recovered that were still alive were wearing life jackets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that indicate to you that they either had them on before they took off, or that they actually had time to put them on after the boat capsized?

KENT: This is pure conjecture, but I think that people grabbed life jackets after the boat capsized that were floating around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? That aside, do you have any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today that you feel comfortable on that boat with that many people?

KENT: I can't answer that. It all depends on conditions, experience. But I can't really respond to that.


KENT: Again, I was out there in a different kind of boat, and I was OK, but it's something I'm not willing to take a stab at.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... helicopters, where they came from, how many you had? MOORE: OK, the helicopters that initiated -- or at the start of the search, there was one from Air Station Astoria. It was launched immediately. A second was put on standby, waiting for an underwater rescue diving team from Classup (ph) County. However, when we learned that the boat had righted itself and there was nobody trapped under the boat, that second helicopter launched from Astoria.

There was a third that was launched from Air Station North Bend, but that one stood down about halfway up here after we had both of our helicopters on scene, and having a third one in this close location, it wasn't deemed necessary, so...


MOORE: We had two on scene this morning, that's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Astoria? What kind of helicopters were they?

MOORE: They are HH-60-J Jay Hawks.


KENT: I haven't gotten up close enough to take a look at it and be able to really respond to that question.

MOORE: And we've never -- I've never seen the boat beforehand, so I don't know if any changes in condition were as a result of the accident or if it was that way to begin this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard several complaints (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today said that he felt that this accident could have been prevented had this bar, the jetty, been maintained better (UNINTELLIGIBLE), better maintenance. Is that your responsibility? Is it the Army Corps'? Or who's responsible for that to respond to their complaints about the bar not being maintained (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

KENT: Well, between the Port of Garibaldi and then also the people that have been assigned to work with -- on this project through the Army Corps of Engineers, those folks might be able to answer that question a little bit better. I don't have an answer for that.


KENT: Yes, I have heard the complaints that there's a lot of shoaling going on at Tillamook Bay. I've experienced it. And as far as I know, the port and the Army Corps of Engineers are working towards some resolutions as far as the repair of the jetties go and possibly looking at the shoaling situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's unsafe now? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) contributed to the accident?

KENT: Like I said earlier, any body of water, given the correct -- or given the right circumstances, can be unsafe. And it all -- it's a whole mixture of things, not just one issue like, for example, shoaling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that something you'll look into?...


KENT: You'd have to ask the National Transportation Safety Board. They're the lead agency in the investigation on this. And they'll be looking into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exactly is shoaling, and what can lead to it, can you tell us that?

KENT: Shoaling is just basically where the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- the depth of water is reduced, in any -- in a body of water, and usually caused by erosion, sediment, washing out from a bay or coming out from the rivers. Also it can be as simple as movement of sand under water north and south along the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This dredged on any regular basis?

KENT: No, it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the Coast Guard recommend that this -- that people who are on charter fishing boats at least put those life jackets on during...

KENT: We strongly recommend that anybody that's on any vessel put on a life jacket as soon as they're ready to step on board a boat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially in dangerous conditions?


KENT: I'm sorry, one more time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people all over the country on that vessel, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KENT: I don't have a clue, I couldn't even -- I -- normally we do have a lot of folks from different states that come to Garibaldi to go fishing. Whether there was people from different states on board, I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know anything about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at all?

MOORE: No, we can't release any information that we do know. The Tillamook County Sheriff's Office is notifying next of kin. As soon as they have made all those notifications, they'll be making additional comments as to who was on board and the makeup of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


MOORE: We believe the vessel was targeting some bottom fish.

KENT: They were going to be going out bottom fishing.

MOORE: Bottom fishing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire department earlier down there said they understood one body was found on the boat after it washed ashore. But you said everybody got washed off the boat.

KENT: Yes, except -- there was one person that was still on board that was recovered by the fire department after the boat hit the beach. But the -- as far as we know, the majority of every -- of the people got washed (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in terms of the Coast Guard recovery, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there were no recoveries by helicopter (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KENT: There was two recoveries by helicopter, there was one recovery from the motor lifeboat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two missing, are they crew or passengers?

MOORE: We do not know. We do not know right now.


MOORE: Again, we can't release that kind of information.

KENT: And just one last thing, and I know I already said this, but I really want to reiterate it. None of the people that perished today were wearing a life jacket. At the very least, four of the people that survived today out of the eight were wearing a life jacket.

So if I could ever find one motivator to throw out there for people to grab onto as to why they should wear a life jacket no matter how cumbersome or inconvenient they might find it, it would be that. Your chances of survival are greatly increased when you have a life jacket.

Thank you.

KOPPEL: You've been listening to a live press conference in northwestern Oregon in Tillamook Bay, where earlier this morning, about 7:15 a.m. West Coast time, it was supposed to be a fun morning, 19 people had gotten together, had gone on a charter fishing boat. They were heading out to do some bottom fishing. Just a few minutes after their boat got under way, they were broadsided, according to the Coast Guard, by a wave that capsized that boat. It was a 32-foot fishing boat.

The surf was so rough that a 47-foot Coast Guard lifeboat was unable to reach them. Nine bodies have been recovered, nine people believed to have died, eight people in hospitals, two people are still missing. The Coast Guard saying a search is still under way there on the West Coast in Oregon, where it's about 4:39 in the afternoon, for those two individuals.

The lesson that we just heard there from the Coast Guard, four of the survivors were wearing their life jackets. All of those who were found to have died were not. So an important lesson there.

We are going to go to a break. Coming back, when we come back, we'll resume programming with "THE CAPITAL GANG."


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