Fishing vessel that caught fire sinks in waters off Oahu’s south shore

Updated: Sep. 18, 2019 at 2:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The commercial fishing vessel that caught fire off Oahu’s south shore on Tuesday afternoon burned into the night, subsequently sinking roughly 2,700 feet in the ocean by Wednesday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A crew on board a Coast Guard cutter monitored the vessel all night as it drifted about 8 miles off Sand Island.

Investigators were also on scene to get survivor statements to try to figure out what exactly happened.

Seven people on board had to “abandon ship,” when a fire apparently broke out in the engine room Tuesday afternoon.

The initial call for the blaze on the “Miss Emma” came in at about 4:30 p.m. An hour later, thick black smoke could still be seen pouring from the boat.

The seven were transported to Honolulu Harbor, where they underwent a medical evaluation. It did not appear any of those rescued had suffered serious injuries. None were transported to the hospital.

Coast Guard officials said in addition to crew members, a NOAA observer was on the vessel. The Coast Guard responded to the vessel in distress with a C-130 airplane, helicopter and a boat.

“We were able to get on scene relatively quickly just before the crew abandoned ship and they got into a life raft,” Cory Palmer of the U.S. Coast Guard said. “We’ve shifted from the safety of life at sea phase into pollution response phase. So we’re monitoring that situation and we’re still working on those details.”

“We are so pleased to have this crew safe in less than an hour after the initial call,” added Lt. j.g. Seth Gross, command duty officer, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu command center. "The quick action of this crew, coupled with our training, made all the difference.”

The 46-foot-long commercial fishing vessel was built in 1977, records show. Honolulu is its home port.

By around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, the vessel sank about 7 miles south of Barbers Point.

About 1,500 gallons of diesel was reportedly on board, but the Coast Guard said there was no pollution as the fire likely consumed some or all of the fuel.

The investigation into the incident is underway.

“They’ll interview the crew. There’s drug and alcohol testing that’s conducted as a matter of routine practice," said Sara Muir of the U.S. Coast Guard. "They’ll also look at the entire history of the vessel and how it’s operated.”

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