CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Seventy-seven-year-old fisherman James Phelps told police yesterday his 17-foot fishing skiff was sunk by a passing barge here on the Elizabeth River. He reported the accident to police at 8:45 a.m. yesterday, according to a PilotOnline report (The Virginian-Pilot), and it's currently under investigation by the Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Police.
The 1,000-hp tug Albert Pike, which was pushing the 120' barge, helped with Phelps' rescue after he was thrown into the water, but the Pike crew doesn't believe it hit the man's boat. The 59'x20' Pike is owned by Skanska USA Civil Southeast, and was originally built in Portsmouth, N.H., at Adams Shipyard in 1958.
A samaritan, who helped with Phelps' rescue, confirmed his accounting of the accident, but police have yet to find the sunken boat and can't confirm a collision until they find a sunken boat. In an interview with the Pilot, Phelps said he is a retired Navy petty officer first class, and didn't have time to start his engine to get out of the way of the barge's wake: "The wave just filled my boat up, and it went down," he said. "I couldn't do anything about it."