Authorities investigating boat capsize

A snorkel boat capsized in the sandbar area of the North Sound Friday afternoon. It had been carrying 54 cruise tourists, a cruise ship escort and three crew members.

There were no serious injuries.

Two passengers were given medical treatment by ambulance at Safehaven following the incident. A third passenger, a pregnant woman, was treated on the scene and taken to the hospital for a further check-up.

Police said the 911 Emergency Centre received calls from several people who were at sea reporting that Kirk Sea Tours’ Sun Runner had capsized.

The boat capsized near a reef in the sandbar area of the ocean, according to reports from cruise guests who had been on board. It had just visited the sandbar and then moved on to stop at a nearby reef. Passengers said that the boat had been taking in some water on one side, and when everyone moved to the other side of the boat it fell on its side, plunging passengers into the water.

Most, but not all, had been wearing life vests, they said.

The tourists had been here for a day on board the Costa Mediterranea ship.

Kirk Sea Tours representatives at Safehaven were unable to comment on the incident Friday afternoon as they were awaiting the crew members’ account of the accident.

The RCIPS maritime unit is investigating the incident with the assistance of the Port Authority and the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands.

‘The focus will be to identify the cause of the accident. If during this process any corrective measures are identified, these will be rigorously pursued,’ Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said in a statement.

Local heroes

Delroy Vernon of Kelly’s Watersports had been out at the sandbar with his crew mates Mark Campbell and Travis Ebanks cleaning the bottom of their boat when they heard someone say help was needed. Mr. Vernon climbed on top of his boat and saw, over at a reef, a snorkel boat on its side.

Immediately the Kelly’s Watersports team drove over to the other boat, anchored their boat down, and assisted the passengers, many of whom were in the water, onto their boat, with the aid of a life ring.

In all, they took 42 people onto their boat, including a pregnant passenger and an elderly woman. Their boat reached Safehaven around 1.45pm.

A marine enforcement boat and some other private boats also assisted with the remaining passengers.

The Kelly’s crew said it was a good feeling to have helped out.

One Canadian tourist who had been on the boat said she was very shaken up by the experience. She was eager to find her husband, who, she was told, had been taken to safety on another boat. Her passport had been retrieved from the water, but it was soaking wet. Her camcorder and digital camera were missing and probably useless if found, she surmised.

However, she felt that authorities in Cayman had handled the incident as best they could.

Another tourist, Patrick Martin, was anxiously awaiting his passport and bag. He was told they were coming, on another boat.

Captain Larribee of Best Value Watesports said he had been out in the area with tourists on his Cayman Beauty boat when he noticed a boat that looked as though it was leaning too much to one side. Next thing it had keeled right over. He had been too far away to give warning, he said.

He then picked up five passengers on to his boat from the water.

Also present at Safehaven were representatives from the Department of Tourism, Port Authority and Complaints Commissioner John Epp.

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