Fuel leaks after boat sinks

OAK HARBOR – A 32-foot crabbing boat sank near Oak Harbor on Thursday afternoon.

The boat’s crew was rescued, but diesel fuel leaking from the boat caused a 14-acre oil sheen Friday morning, officials said.

No one reached Friday would say how many people were rescued.

No oil had washed up on the shores of Whidbey or Camano islands by Friday afternoon, said Larry Altose, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology.

“The (warm) weather is working in our favor,” Altose said. “It’s evaporating a lot of the diesel.”

The boat had a 200-gallon fuel tank, but a crew member said the tank wasn’t full, estimating there may have been 50 gallons left in it.

The state and the U.S. Coast Guard will make their own estimates about how much fuel spilled by using aerial photos of the sheen, Altose said.

The Matika Jo put out a distress call at 6 p.m. Thursday, Altose said.

A Swinomish Tribe police boat rescued the boat’s passengers. The boat sank in 20 feet of water, and tribal police spotted an oil sheen when they returned to the site later Thursday evening.

Altose said the diesel likely escaped through air vents in the boat’s fuel tank. The Coast Guard has hired a firm to see whether those holes can be plugged, according to an agency statement.

A volunteer group of beach watchers has been asked to watch for signs that fuel is washing up on beaches near where the boat went down, including in the Ustsalady, Madrona and Rockway beach areas.

An investigation into the incident is under way, Altose said.

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

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