The National Transportation Safety Board issued Marine Investigation Report 23-24 Nov. 28 following its investigation into the sinking of the commercial fishing vessel Carol Jean off the coast of Georgia.
On March 21, while anchored with no one on board, the Carol Jean flooded and sank in the Atlantic Ocean near Tybee Island, Ga. After the vessel’s emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, activated, the Coast Guard responded and found a debris field where the beacon’s signal originated. There was no pollution reported. The loss of the Carol Jean was estimated at $250,000.
The owner/captain of the Carol Jean purchased another commercial fishing vessel and planned to use the Carol Jean to tow the second vessel to Valona, Ga. The captain used a rope that had been stored on board the second vessel as a tow line without knowing whether it was sufficient for the tow. The captain also did not use chafing gear to protect the tow line during the voyage, and the line eventually frayed and parted.
As the captain and crewmember attempted to reestablish the tow on March 16, the tow line became entangled in the Carol Jean’s propeller, preventing the vessel from moving. The following day the weather deteriorated, and the Coast Guard evacuated the Carol Jean crew.
The vessel remained anchored off the coast of Georgia with no one remaining on board to monitor its status. The captain returned to the vessel on March 19 with a diver and untangled the tow line from the vessel’s propeller, but the engine clutch had been damaged and was removed to be repaired.
The vessel remained unattended offshore until March 21, when the vessel’s EPIRB activated. The vessel likely sank at some point between the captain’s departure from the vessel on March 19 and the activation of the vessel’s EPIRB on March 21.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the sinking was likely flooding from an unknown source while the vessel was anchored offshore and unattended. The captain’s inadequate planning for a tow, leading to the Carol Jean being anchored after the tow line failed and fouled its propeller, contributed to the loss of the vessel.