Oregon crabber runs off the road

Crews worked feverishly late Monday afternoon to free the Warrenton-based crab boat. KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo

KLIPSAN BEACH - The biggest show in town early this week was the wreck and salvage of Warrenton-based crabber Miss Mary, which finally was towed off the beach around 10 a.m. Tuesday.

At about 1 a.m. Sunday morning Miss Mary skipper Kelly Smotherman made a distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard, stating that the boat had run aground about six miles north of Long Beach.

There were 10-foot swells at the time of the mishap and a light rain was falling. The sheer size of the vessel kept it from capsizing in the surf during the rising tide.

The USCG responded with two ground vehicles, two motor lifeboats, and a helicopter. The two lifeboats later returned to the base when it was determined that the Miss Mary was on the beach and their services would not be needed.

The Beach Patrol Rescue Team, Long Beach Fire Department, Pacific County Sheriffs Department, and Washington State Patrol units were also on scene.

At about 2:30 a.m. the four-man crew of the Miss Mary radioed the helicopter as it hovered above the stranded vessel that they were staying on board and did not need help. USCG personnel on the scene determined that there was no apparent danger to them and told the three-dozen men and women from the various agencies involved in the mission to stand down.

Most equipment was removed from the boat Sunday and on Monday heavy equipment was called in to prepare the site for Tuesday's towing operation.

Thanks to the salvage crew of Fred Devine Diving & Salvage, a helicopter, a trac-hoe, a bull dozer, the Dunlap's tug Manfred Langstrom and a 9-foot high tide, the Miss Mary was towed stern first to sea at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, as spectators cheered and honked.

"The Miss Mary will be towed of the beach and a standby vessel, the Iron Lady will put aboard a crew of two men who will check for leaks and the integrity of the vessel," salvage crew chief Don Floyd said. "Then the Iron Lady and the tug will tow the Miss Mary, stern first, over the Columbia Bar and into the river."

There were no injuries reported to the crew or rescuers during the incident.

The USCG commander in charge said, "They [the crew of the Miss Mary] were very lucky." He added, "This time."

Whether the grounding was caused by human error or by mechanical failure as was originally reported is under investigation.

In June 1997, Miss Mary caught fire about 20 miles west of the mouth of the Columbia River. USCG rescuers and the crews of two boats helped extinguish the blaze. No injuries were sustained in this earlier incident, either.

-Ron Malast contributed to this report.

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