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Coast Guard ship hits ferry; no one seriously hurt

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[July 03, 2008]  NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) -- A Coast Guard cutter collided with a Block Island Ferry carrying more than 250 passengers in dense fog Wednesday, but no serious injuries were reported, authorities said.

ChiropracticThe ferry was on an hour-long run to Block Island, and the cutter, a buoy tender named Morro Bay, was returning to its home base in New London, Conn., when the collision occurred about 12:15 p.m., the Coast Guard said.

"At this point, the circumstance as to how the crash occurred is part of the investigation. It is not available this early," Chief Petty Officer Amy Thomas said. "We regret any inconvenience or distress this might have caused anybody on the ferry."

Visibility at the time of the collision was about 200 yards, the Coast Guard said.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash.


The 175-foot ferry sustained a 44-inch-long dent about 5 feet above the water line, and was escorted to Block Island by another Coast Guard ship. The cutter, which has a crew of 18, sustained minor damage, Thomas said.

The Coast Guard vessel had radar equipment, and Thomas said it was her understanding that all equipment was operating properly. Crew members from both vessels will undergo drug and alcohol testing, she said.

The Coast Guard said the Morro Bay was returning to its homeport after a ceremony in Newport on Tuesday to welcome its new commander, Lt. Douglas Wyatt.

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The 1,000-passenger capacity ferry, named Block Island, always uses radar and was using it at the time of the collision, said William A. McCombe, the ferry company's security officer. It is the primary year-round vessel that services the island, he said.

Three people reported minor injuries. Two were treated at an island medical center and released, McCombe said. A car on the ferry had minor damage after a motorcycle fell onto it, he said.

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"That boat has made thousands of trips. This is the first incident that I know of like that involving that vessel," he said.

The fog was thick and the ferry's horn was blowing every five minutes, said Brad Barco, 28, who was with his girlfriend on the top, outside level of the ferry.

"I knew we weren't going to be able to stop. I was like 'We're going to hit this thing,'" Barco said. "And then it got closer, closer, closer. They started honking their horns back and forth. And before we knew it, we made impact."

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The owner of a restaurant and hotel complex at the ferry port said the ship was carrying 55 cases of clam chowder, 1,000 pounds of shellfish and 2,000 pounds of produce. Steven Filippi, owner of Ballard's Inn, said the Coast Guard would not let him get the food off the ferry and, by the afternoon, some of it had gone bad.

[Associated Press; By SUSAN HAIGH]

Associated Press reporters Eric Tucker and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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