Re: 90' brig "Irving Johnson" about to hit breakwall in Oxnard

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Posted by on March 22, 2005 at 07:50:35:

In Reply to: 90' brig "Irving Johnson" about to hit breakwall in Oxnard posted by Max Bottomtime on March 21, 2005 at 16:56:12:

A tall, two-masted ship ran aground on a sandbar Monday afternoon, forcing 20 crew members and students to jump overboard near a rock jetty at the entrance to Channel Islands Harbor.

The crew members and students on the Irving Johnson, all accounted for, shivered as they walked onto land away from the water and the 90-foot vessel that teetered onto its sides, dangerously close to the rocks.

Some of the victims wore life vests; others had their soaked clothing shredded by the rocks and water.

Ventura County firefighters who took command of the rescue about 3:30 p.m. didn't know what had happened to the Irving Johnson before it got into trouble.

It was being used for a seven-day team-building trip through the Channel Islands by students from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said Laura Trulson, the Los Angeles Maritime Institute's education director.

Ten students and 10 crew members were aboard the boat, she said.

U.S. Coast Guard officials said late Monday the cause of the incident was still under investigation.

Residents who were at the harbor when the Irving Johnson neared, however, said the vessel got into trouble on its own.

The ship, which belongs to the institute's TopSail Youth Program, came in too close to the harbor, said Norm Wilson, 62, of Oxnard. The tide was high and the wind was blowing, he said.

The weather conditions didn't help matters and actually pushed the ship toward the rocks, he said, and then it got stuck on a sandbar.

The Irving Johnson steered wherever the wind blew. It tilted on its sides, causing the waves to crash onto the deck, said Rozanne Holmes, 19, of Oxnard.

At one point six of the occupants fell out, she said.

Spectators who saw them fall out ran to help them, Holmes said.

They all walked out of the water on their own.

Meanwhile, 14 others held onto the ropes and the rigging of the ship as it swayed in the water.

Two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters, a 41-foot patrol boat and the guard's Halibut vessel surrounded the Irving Johnson. A Ventura County Fire Department helicopter also circled above.

Authorities said it was too dangerous for the helicopters to get close to the ship, which has 4,450 square feet of sail with a rigging height of nearly 88 feet and a diesel engine.

Instead, rescuers wearing dive suits and using personal watercraft coaxed those on board to jump into the water so they could safely get onto land, Oxnard Fire Capt. Dave Reyes said.

"I was rushing in and out of the water and on and off the (watercraft) and it's all instinct then," said Water Rescue Capt. Mel Lovo of the Ventura County Fire Department. "It was cold down there. Those who needed to be rescued weren't ready for this. They were dressed for a warm sunny day, not getting into the water."

The rescuees declined to comment.

Three were taken to local hospitals to be treated for hypothermia. The others went to the U.S. Coast Guard station in the harbor, where the American Red Cross was going to feed them and give them clothing, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Joe Luna said.

Holmes and several other spectators said U.S. Coast Guard members used a small vessel to try to steer the Irving Johnson away from the jetty but the towline snapped.

"The U.S. Coast Guard should have dispatched an 85-foot boat to tow it," said Kevin Reynolds, 42, of Oxnard.

Coast Guard spokesman Prentice Danner couldn't confirm what crews did, only that the incident was being investigated.

Once the people were off the Irving Johnson, emergency personnel left the beach and the dozens of spectators began leaving.

The Irving Johnson remained stuck near the jetty.

It will need to be towed away by its owner, otherwise it will be destroyed where it rests because it is too close to the rocks, Luna said.

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