Sunken Boat Now At Sailcraft Boat Yard
Coast Guard focusing on shaft packing gland
February 20, 2006

Another possible clue was gleaned Saturday in to the sinking of the 35 foot Carolina Classic sportfishing boat that went down in the Neuse River almost two weeks ago. The boat was brought ashore Saturday afternoon giving investigators a chance to examine the hull more closely.

The boat was brought on land at Sailcraft Services in Oriental

The lead Coast Guard investigator, Lt. Charles Fluke said Saturday that one issue may have been the shaft packing gland on the boat’s port side. He did not elaborate. Under normal circumstances packing would keep water from filling the boat via the shaft opening.

There were no obvious holes apparent from examining the hull.

Another clue to the sinking may be the opened engine hatch, which stretches across the width of part of the cabin. As reported mid-week, the hatch was found in the open position when divers got to the boat while it was still stern down, in the Neuse. The key for one engine was found in the off position, and the throttle in neutral. That might suggest that the crew had opened the engine compartment to investigate something. But it is also possible, Lt. Fluke said Friday night, that the compartment opened when the boat sank.

Investigators look into the engine room for clues

Two Florida men, Sam Puleo and Jim Surfice died in connection with the sinking. The two left Edenton, where the boat was made at the Carolina Classic plant, on Sunday February 5th. They were delivering the boat to so that it could be part of this weekend’s Miami Boat Show.

The Coast Guard says that it was told that the two men habitually carried hand held VHF radios and cellphones when they made boat deliveries. Coast Guard Commander for NC, Captain Dean Lee told that a review of the recordings of incoming calls to the Coast Guard found no distress calls from that area on that Sunday. Captain Lee also said that while out at the site of the sinking mid-week, Coast Guard crew found that their own 5-watt handheld VHF’s weren’t working.

On Saturday evening, as crews were cleaning the boat of the mud, waterlogged cushions and belongings, one handheld VHF radio could be seen in a puddle amid other debris.

Lead investigator Lt. Fluke said Saturday that he would address whether there was a “dead zone” for communication in that part of the river. As for cell phones, Lt. Fluke suggested that cell phone reliability depended upon the carrier.

Lt. Fluke says he will wrap up his investigation on Tuesday in Oriental.

Related Links:

Boat Delivery Turns Disaster, Feb 11

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