Captain dies, three rescued after tug sinks

Capt. Donald Maloney died and three other crewmen were rescued when the 62-foot tug Sea Bear suddenly began taking on water and sank about a mile off Fire Island, N.Y., on Saturday, Coast Guard officials said.

A crewmember was able to place a cell phone call around 2 p.m. to the New York Coast Guard vessel traffic services office, which made calls to initiate the search and rescue. Heavy rain and ice conditions hampered the search, which included three Coast Guard helicopters and state and Suffolk County, N.Y., police. Around 4 p.m. a Coast Guard vessel crew found the three crewmen floating together in survival suits clutching two life rings, with water temperatures around 36 degrees, and rescued them. The crewmen told the Coast Guard that they saw Capt. Maloney jump off without a survival suit.

Survivors Lars Vetland of Staten Island, N.Y., Jason Reimer of Middletown, N.J., and Rainer Bendixen of Bay Head, N.J., were taken to the Fire Island Coast Guard station but did not need medical treatment. The search continued for Maloney, the on-duty captain who had been separated from the rest of the crew.

Other civilian vessels responded to a Coast Guard broadcast alert to assist in the search. About an hour after the rescue, the crew of the tug Captain Willie Landers, operated by Dann Ocean Towing, reported a body floating in the area, and a Coast Guard crew recovered Maloney, who was not wearing a survival suit. Maloney, of Peckville, Pa., was 60. 

The 62’x21’x8’6″ Sea Bear, a twin-screw 1,000-hp coastwise, model bow, hawser tug built in 1990, is operated by Wittich Bros. Marine Inc., Bayonne, N.J. It had been working on an inlet dredging project at Moriches. It was heading back to the Bayonne dock when it sank.

“A salvage plan is in the works,” said Lt. j.g. Martin Betts, a spokesman for Coast Guard Long Island Sector, New Haven, Conn. He said the tug lies in 20′ of water one mile off a stretch of Fire Island known as Fire Island Pines.

About the author

David Krapf

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.

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