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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Dog scared but safe after rescue

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Forgea is safe at last.

The dog that launched a $48,000 Humane Society rescue operation and kept animal lovers and maritime officials on high alert while she drifted across the Pacific on a derelict oil tanker for 24 days was rescued at 2:30 p.m. yesterday

"She is eating and drinking and in (the) possession of the crew (of the American Quest tugboat)," Coast Guard Capt. Gilbert J. Kanazawa said during a news conference yesterday at the Coast Guard Marine Office. "She appears to be in good shape, but of course we don't know what she went through during her ordeal at sea. We are just very pleased to report a happy ending."

The dog was being kept in a crate provided by the Humane Society while she acclimates to her new surroundings aboard the tug, Coast Guard and Humane Society officials said.

Kanazawa said plans are being made to bring the dog to Hawai'i as soon as possible.

Linda Haller, a Hawaiian Humane Society official, said Forgea will be kept on Kaua'i for the 120-day quarantine period, and cared for by volunteer animal lovers. Haller had also been in communication with the American Quest tug crew yesterday.

"She is shaking in her crate," Haller said. "But that is to be expected — she's pretty scared."

This weekend, the tug crew will continue to search the derelict Insiko 1907 for the body of a crewman killed in a March 13 explosion.

The Insiko crew members abandoned the vessel after a debilitating fire in the engine room and were rescued by the crew of the Norwegian Star cruise ship April 2. The dog and the body were left behind.

American Quest is owned by American Marine Corp., a company that was operating under an environmental service contract to the Coast Guard.

Previously, American Marine Corp. was hired by the Humane Society to find Forgea. After a fruitless search, American Marine reported that they were unable to find the ship and feared it may have sunk. They asked fishermen operating in areas where the Insiko had been drifting to keep an eye out.

The Coast Guard also kept watch, particularly after computer-generated models showed that the tanker, which carries 60,000 gallons of fuel, could be in danger of running aground at Johnston Atoll.

A C-130 aircrew confirmed the Insiko's course last weekend, spotting the tanker about 225 miles off Johnston Atoll.

They also spotted Forgea running across the tanker's deck, and dropped pizza, granola bars and oranges to her from the plane.

Upon hearing of the Coast Guard sighting, American Marine radioed a nearby fishing boat and asked the crew to investigate Forgea's condition. The fishermen found the Insiko but the 2-year-old mixed terrier evaded them, hiding beneath the deck where the stairways and corridors were burned and collapsing.

While the Humane Society scrambled to assemble a crew of crack dog catchers from Hawai'i and the Mainland, and plotted ways to get the team to the Insiko, the Coast Guard hired American Marine to tow the Insiko to deep waters and sink the vessel.

Yesterday, the dog walked right up to one of the two American Quest crewmen who boarded the Insiko, said Rusty Nall, vice president of American Marine.

"Brian (Murray, the American Quest's salvage master) owns dogs," Nall said. "He's good with animals and has a nice personality, and that has a lot to do with getting along with dogs."

Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, added: "The ham bone probably helped."

The Humane Society is paying American Marine $48,000 for the earlier search for Forgea, the cash donated by animal lovers nationwide.

Coast Guard officials said they weren't yet sure what their part of American Quest's bill would total. Federal officials were still trying to determine how best to dispose of the Insiko.