Passengers rescued after tour boat sinks

Two humpback whales near Juneau Saturday, June 4, 2016. (Public Domain photo by NOAA Fisheries)
Two humpback whales near Juneau Saturday, June 4, 2016. (Public Domain photo by NOAA Fisheries)

Two boats rescued the passengers of a whale watching vessel that sank Sunday.

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U.S. Coast Guard PO3 Lauren Steenson said the tour boat Big Red reported it was taking on water early in the afternoon.

“Coast Guard Watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast and there were a couple (of) good Samaritans that responded,” Steenson said.

The See You, the first vessel to reach the Big Red, took most of the 16 passengers and two crew members aboard, but it didn’t have room for four people. Steenson said those four waited in the water until Allen Marine Tours’ vessel, the St. Herman, came on scene.

“But once the St. Herman got there, all 18 people were recovered from the water and the other boat and transported to Allen Marine Dock,” Steenson said.

The passengers and crew reached shore about two hours after they called for help. Steenson wasn’t certain what condition they were in. She said one person had a knee injury.

Steenson said the Coast Guard rarely sees vessels sink in the Juneau area, but they do see an increase in calls for vessels taking on water during the summer months.

“Especially during those months we definitely like to stress the importance of having all your safety gear up to date and having life vests for each person on board and functioning communication equipment,” Steenson said.

Lt. Jennifer Ferreira, Coast Guard Sector Juneau command duty officer said in a press release, all of the Big Red’s passengers were given life vests.

The Big Red was operated by Dolphin Jet Boat Tours. The company didn’t immediately respond to attempted requests for comment.

The cause of the boat sinking is under investigation.

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Quinton Chandler is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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