The Coast Guard and good Samaritans rescued 18 people Sunday from a sinking whale watching boat near Juneau, Alaska.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Juneau received a call from a crewmember of the 35'x10'x4' Big Red reporting that the vessel was taking on water in Favorite Channel. Watchstanders issued an urgent broadcast requesting that any vessels in the area go to the scene and assist, and also dispatched a Coast Guard small response boat.
By the time the Coast Guard vessel arrived on scene, the Juneau Empire reported, the Big Red was already underwater, but all the passengers had been picked up by another tour boat, Allen Marine Tours' St. Herman, with the help of recreational vessel See You.
Big Red is owned by Dolphin Jet Tours, Juneau. The Juneau Empire reached Dolphin Jet owner Doug Ward, who told the paper his first concern was for passengers and crew.
"It's just a boat," Ward told the Juneau Empire. "They lost some cameras and some binoculars, but no lives."
The Coast Guard credited the crew of the Big Red for getting all passengers aboard the sinking vessel into life jackets quickly.
"Personal floatation devices only work when you wear them, and mariners are reminded to ensure all personnel aboard are wearing or have quick access to a life vest,” said Lt. Jennifer Ferreira, Sector Juneau command duty officer. “In this case, the crew of the Big Red took swift and decisive actions to ensure life vests were handed to all passengers after the vessel began taking on water.”
The Coast Guard is investigating the sinking, and Ward told the Juneau Empire he would investigate as well, and planned to try and salvage the boat, which he said was resting in about 20' of water. Weather at the time of the sinking was reported as 17 mph winds, 4' seas, and light rain.