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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tugboat rescues 2 men in life raft

Advertiser Staff

WAILUKU, Maui Two men in a life raft were rescued by a passing tugboat yesterday after their 60-foot fishing boat sank about 3 miles off Molokini.

The Coast Guard is investigating why the Princess Natasha went down. Few details were released yesterday. The survivors were identified as Robert McCracken of Kapolei and Ernie Falk, also of O'ahu.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael De Nyse said 200 gallons of fuel were aboard the fishing boat, but there were no reports of pollution from the vessel.

The 120-foot tugboat Ocean Service, owned by Sause Brothers and commanded by captain Raymond Lee, was pulling a fuel barge between Kaho'olawe and Molokini on its way to Hilo when first mate Donovan Duncan spotted a flare around 6 a.m. Duncan said the small life raft could not be detected on radar and visibility was poor because of darkness and rain. The tug slowed and brought the barge in closer for safety and greater maneuverability while searching for the survivors.

When additional flares were fired, the crew used a spotlight to locate the life raft near Molokini, a popular tour-boat stop for snorkeling. "They were cold and pretty tired when we got to them," Duncan said.

The men were brought aboard. Duncan said he did not get a chance to talk at length with the two, who were immediately transferred to a Coast Guard vessel and taken to Ma'alaea Harbor on Maui.