With all the navigation electronics boats are packing around and on a day where conditions were said to be full light, no fog or squalls you would think a collision between two boats, especially when one of them is a 110-foot Coast Guard cutter, could be avoided.
But Sept. 23 at 6:38 in the morning, the steel hulled cutter Key Largo and the 42-foot fiberglass lobster boat Sea Shepherd found each other, nine miles East-Northeast of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Winston Ledee, 57, the Sea Shepherd’s owner, and his crewman, Kenneth “Scott” Turbe, 30, saw the cutter coming at them just before it hit, according to one news account, and they jumped ship.
The U.S. Virgin Islands-based Sea Shepherd went to the bottom, leaving lobster traps floating on the sea’s surface. The two men were taken aboard the Key Largo and while neither was injured, both were shook up.
Three days later Ledee told the Virgin Islands Daily News, “Physically, I’m good. Mentally, I’m not. This is a nightmare.”
Two days after the accident, the boat recovery company Sea Tow, with four divers aboard, unsuccessfully tried to locate Ledee’s boat. The water depth in the area is between 600 and 2,000 feet.
According to the Coast Guard, three investigations are examining the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board will try to determine the cause of the accident and make recommendations for avoiding similar outcomes.
The Coast Guard is directing a safety analysis investigation to also identify causal factors leading up to the mishap. It is tasked with identifying organization and systematic changes to reduce such mishaps.
The Coast Guard’s Seventh District Commander is looking at accountability and assessing financial claims against the Coast Guard.
The Seventh District investigation should be the first completed. Results are expected by late November.