ILWACO, Wash. The U.S. Coast Guard will charge an Ilwaco man with boating under the influence (BUI) after his boat, the Charlie & Carol, sank with nearly a ton of tuna onboard about 25 miles west of Ilwaco early Sunday.
Craig Lewis, 52, called Sector Columbia River at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, stating that his vessel was taking on water. He estimated more than 400 gallons aboard the ship, adding that his pump was unable to keep up with the water coming in. He was rescued early Sunday.
The cause for the vessel taking on water and sinking is still unclear, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn, but Lewis claims the vessel struck an unknown object.
The Sector launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria and a 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco.
The helicopter crew arrived on scene and lowered a rescue swimmer into the water. Risking his life, the swimmer climbed aboard the listing vessel and helped the man abandon the vessel and reach a life raft.
He stayed at Cape D through the night until he was sober enough, said Littlejohn, adding that Lewis was released afterward under his own recognizance.
The Coast Guard suspected Lewis of being intoxicated, but he refused to submit to alcohol breath testing. He is being charged with BUI. The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms.
This is one of the first major BUI cases since Valeriy Sharykin, captain of a 602-foot freighter, pled guilty to operating commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol. U.S. Coast Guard inspectors in Portland in April detected alcohol on the captains breath during a vessel examination. U.S., and his blood-alcohol level was later determined to be more than four times the legal limit.
Sharykin was sentenced to two years of probation, during which he is barred from sailing U.S. waters. He also paid a $1,000 fine to the court and another $1,000 to an alcohol treatment facility.