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May 19, 2015 5:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Commercial Fishing Boat Sinks After Collision

The Nina Marie, a sportfishing boat from Rhode Island, was partly submerged after colliding with a commercial fishing boat about 17 miles off shore on Sunday morning. The Nina Marie was dragged back to shore by Sea-Tow Shinnecock/Moriches while the other boat, the Elizabeth J, sank to the bottom of the ocean. COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD
May 19, 2015 5:24 PM

A 44-foot commercial fishing boat out of Hampton Bays sank after being hit by another boat in foggy conditions Sunday morning on the Atlantic Ocean.

The Elizabeth J was hit by a 48-foot sport fishing boat, the Stradivarius, at about 10:50 a.m. and roughly 17 nautical miles south of the Shinnecock Inlet, in approximately 150 feet of water. There were no injuries reported.

The owner of the Elizabeth J, Jeff Kraus of Southampton, was not on the boat at the time of the accident, but he said his vessel was traveling at about three knots and fishing for scallops when his captain—Michael Mason of Hampton Bays—spotted the Stradivarius on the boat’s radar approaching at roughly 20 knots.

“We have the right of way, number one,” Mr. Kraus said when he reached out to The Press on Monday morning. “And two, the captain said he spotted the sporty on the radar and made calls to try to notify him but [the other boat] never responded to the radio calls.”

At the time of the accident, visibility was about a quarter of a nautical mile due to foggy conditions, according to the Coast Guard. Mr. Kraus said a boat is responsible for being able to stop within half the distance of visibility, meaning that the captain of the Stradivarius—Brian Gibson of Rhode Island—should have been traveling at a speed that would have allowed it to stop within an eighth of a mile.

Mr. Gibson told the Coast Guard that the boat he was captaining was called the Nina Marie, but its owner, Thomas Ricci, also of Rhode Island, clarified Tuesday that the boat involved in Sunday’s accident was, in fact, the Stradivarius.

Mr. Ricci explained that he was having Mr. Gibson transport the Stradivarius from Florida up to Rhode Island at the time. Mr. Ricci also noted that he was in Boston on the day of the collision, explaining that he knows “none of the particulars” about the incident, though he does not think Mr. Gibson did anything wrong.

“He told me there was fog and when he looked up there was a boat in front of him,” Mr. Ricci said. “That’s all I got.”

One of the crew members of the Elizabeth J—identified by Mr. Kraus as Rob Lindquist of Hampton Bays—was ejected into the 56-degree water. He was rescued by the two people on the Stradivarius, but that boat quickly began taking on water so all three transferred to the Elizabeth J, according to Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Junior-grade Martin Betts.

The Elizabeth J also was taking on water, so the three crew members and the two passengers from the Stradivarius contacted the Coast Guard and deployed an emergency raft from the commercial fishing boat.

Two rescue boats were dispatched from the Coast Guard Station Shinnecock shortly before 11 a.m., along with two rescue helicopters from the Coast Guard’s station in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They were in the area of the accident by about noon, Lt. Betts said.

After getting the call, the Coast Guard contacted another fishing vessel in the area and that boat, Adventurous, picked up all five people at 12:20 p.m. and then rendezvoused with the Coast Guard cutters, which transported the five individuals back to shore. No one required medical attention.

The Elizabeth J sank but Sea-Tow Shinnecock/Moriches was able tow the Stradivarius back to shore.

Captain Les Trafford, owner of Sea-Tow Shinnecock/Moriches, said he left Hampton Bays at about 11 a.m. Sunday and didn’t make it back until after 7 a.m. Monday. He said he was slowed down because he was unable to patch the leak until he got the boat back to shore.

“We couldn’t get it floating off-shore,” he said. “So it was a three-and-a-half knot tow for 17 miles, with the boat mostly submerged.”

After returning to Hampton Bays, Mr. Trafford said he was able to pump out the water and get the boat back on dry land.

Mr. Ricci said he has not seen his boat, but was informed it was damaged further during the towing process. “Apparently the boat is totaled, that’s what I heard,” he said. “I’m the guy that’s paying the bills and I’m the guy that knows nothing at this point.”

Mr. Kraus said Mr. Gibson, who was at the helm of the Stradivarius, apologized after the accident for not being more careful. Still, Mr. Kraus said he intends on taking Mr. Ricci to court to recoup what he invested in his commercial fishing boat that is now at the bottom of the ocean.

The Coast Guard has not filed any charges against Mr. Gibson, though Lt. Betts noted that the accident is still under investigation.

“I’ve got a boat at the bottom of the ocean and five guys who are out of work now,” Mr. Kraus said. “I’m not calling to trash the other boat here, but the reality is he was the one that was traveling too fast and he was the one who hit us.”

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By loading... (563), quiogue on May 18, 15 7:25 AM
Anyone wonder why the Air National Guard in Westhampton doesn't react to any of our water rescues? The base is once again slated for BRAC (base realignment and closure) in 2015 again, meaning "is there enough reasons to close it, as our government has done elsewhere. Well in my opinion there is, why? because I would like someone to tell me what have they done lately? or for that matter ever? We all remember "The Perfect Storm" movie depicting the ANG. That was 20 years ago and that was a big mistake, ...more
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on May 18, 15 9:55 AM
The article points out the reason why if you read it carefully. The visibility was very poor. An airplane would have had difficulty spotting it visually and probably also been difficult to see a small boat on radar. The weather conditions didnt sound like it was safe to fly in.

Considering the conditions and the location near HB a boat is a better choice. Sometimes a plane/helo is not the best tool for the job. Is the AG budgeted to do this work when the USCG is near?
By Baymen87 (128), Lugoff, SC on May 18, 15 10:59 AM
Bayman we know how much you probably dislike the coast guard primarily for enforcing fishing regulations. but Didn't you.notice the overhead pictures of the boat sinking??? rescue weather was good enough to make the call to fly, both Air stations fly HH-60 Jayhawks..keep your fingesr crossed this never happens again.
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on May 18, 15 5:05 PM
Coast Guard does not enforce fishing regulations, that would be the DEC
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on May 19, 15 7:40 AM
2 members liked this comment
Any boat with good marine radar should easily be able to see another boat on the radar screen and avoid it - you can even see lobster pot buoys offshore on radar. If the Nina Marie radar was off or not in use then they were crazy to be going 20 knots in fog. If the Nina Marie had no radar (no radar dome is visible in the picture) then that is crazy too. CG regs state that in low visibility you need to monitor channel 9 on the radio, post a lookout, and toot your horn regularly. Sounds like Nina ...more
By jperrier (53), Springs on May 18, 15 6:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Look closer
By CaptainSig (711), Dutch Harbor on May 19, 15 5:43 PM
The "captain" of the sport is 100% in the wrong and responsible for this accident, thank God it ended with no loss of life.
By bigfresh (4442), north sea on May 18, 15 7:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
I find it hard to believe that the Nina Marie did not have radar...
By Arnold Timer (326), Sag Harbor on May 19, 15 10:10 PM
The boat has radar its under the tuna tower.
By capt. Jack (17), Southampton on May 20, 15 8:05 AM
Radar is a tool, so is the Capt. of the Nina Marie.
By bigfresh (4442), north sea on May 21, 15 6:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Coast Guard does enforce fisheries laws in Federal waters.

The sporty is in the wrong here.
By Draggerman (917), Southampton on May 23, 15 8:41 PM
Drive-in movies,Coopers Beach, Southampton village