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January 8, 2013

Dual probes explore Osprey accident

GLOUCESTER — Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and state’s Department of Environmental Protection have both now launched investigations into what caused the 100-foot herring trawler Osprey to strike a rock off Ten Pound Island and trigger a Gloucester Harbor oil spill last week.

The impact punctured one of the trawlers fuel tanks, with approximately 150 gallons of No. 2 heating oil spilling throughout the area and into the coves off Rocky Neck.

While U.S. Coast Guard Lt. James Pritchard said Monday that no cause has yet been identified as to why the vessel hit the rock, but added that the investigation is still in its early stages.

Pritchard said the boat’s owner, Peter Mullen and the three crew members who were on board at the time have all been interviewed in the accident’s aftermath.

”We are looking at what safety issues there may have been,” he said, “to make the industry safer.”

There were gale warnings the night of the accident, with northwest winds estimated to be 23 to 28 miles per hour and gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, according to National Weather Service records.

The trawler, which weighs 170 tons, ran into the rocks at around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. The vessel returned for repairs early the next morning, when the oil spill cleanup repairs as well.

Joseph Ferson, spokesman for the Massachusetts DEP, said the floating booms used to absorb and stop the spill were replaced throughout the weekend, adding they will likely be taken down within the next day or two. He added the response to the initial spill is over and done with, and said the remaining investigations are mainly precautionary measures.

The oil, which is similar to diesel fuel, is commonly used as a home heating oil and used in off road vehicles.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.

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