The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following update on its investigation of the June 14 capsizing of the small passenger vessel "Taki Tooo" while transiting Tillamook Bar near Garibaldi, Oregon. Of the 19 persons aboard, 9 died and 2 are missing and presumed dead.
The 35-foot Taki Tooo was one of four U.S. Coast Guard-inspected small passenger vessels leaving the bay at the same time for charter fishing excursions. The Norwester was the first vessel to transit Tillamook Bar, followed by the Oakland Pilot, the D&D, and the Taki Tooo.
The Coast Guard had posted two "Rough Bar" warnings, one at its lower station near the harbor and the other on its tower near the entrance to the bay, and had prohibited recreational and uninspected commercial vessels from transiting the bar that morning.
Witness statements confirm that there were communications between the vessels over VHF radios indicating that conditions were less than ideal, but vessel operators and deckhands have told the Board that they have crossed the bar in rougher conditions than were present that day. One of the rescue units, which arrived on scene with a rigid-hull inflatable boat and a personal watercraft, could not launch because conditions were too rough.
Witnesses stated that the Taki Tooo did not follow the same course out the channel as the previous boats. The Taki Tooo's course took her closer to the North Jetty as the vessel turned to the north. The other vessels had continued farther out the channel on a more northwesterly course before then turning more toward the north. The Taki Tooo capsized at approximately 7:12 a.m., apparently after being struck on its port side by a large wave. A record from the Coast Guard's Regional Command Center shows that the first signal received from the vessel's EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) was at 7:20.
The NTSB has interviewed the surviving deckhand and 6 of the 7 surviving passengers. A synthesis of their statements follows.
The captain, who was also the owner of the vessel, was very familiar with the waters around the Tillamook Bar and had at least 17 years of experience operating the Taki Tooo. He gave a safety briefing before leaving the dock. He described the lifejackets to the passengers as Mae West type and explained where they were located, which was below in a cabinet in the cabin. No demonstration of donning a lifejacket was given, and no passengers donned lifejackets at that time.
All of the surviving passengers interviewed thought the seas were very rough, and all of them stated that the vessel was parallel to the wave when it struck the vessel and rolled them over. None of the survivors heard any problems with the engines.
Of the 8 survivors, one passenger was out on deck without a lifejacket and survived. The deckhand was thrown from the flying bridge and survived; she also did not have a lifejacket. Six passengers in the cabin were able to access lifejackets during the accident sequence (one did not survive). Although the vessel was upside down with water filling the cabin, four of the five survivors were able to use the lifejackets and escape the cabin, one through a door and the others through broken windows; the fifth had to remove the lifejacket to get through a window and was not able to recover it. The circumstances surrounding the rescue of the eighth survivor are not yet known.
The Captain and 7 passengers were thrown from the vessel and drowned; none were wearing lifejackets. One passenger in the cabin donned a lifejacket but did not escape the cabin and was found dead in the vessel. Two passengers are still missing and presumed dead; they were on the outside deck at the time of the capsizing and were not wearing lifejackets.
Survivors' ages ranged from 18 to 52. Those who perished ranged from 43 to 70.
The 35-foot Taki Tooo was constructed of fiberglass in 1977 in Tacoma, Washington. The Coast Guard has told the NTSB that the vessel had no outstanding deficiencies when she departed on her trip that day.
The vessel was inspected on the beach on June 15 and subsequently when it was moved to a secure location provided by the Tillamook County Sheriff's Department. Both examinations showed no evidence of mechanical defect. The vessel's throttles, transmission, fuel lines, steering, rudder, drive shaft, bilge alarms, and hydraulics all appeared to be in working order.
There is evidence to show that the engine was still providing power to the propeller when the vessel touched bottom at some point during the accident sequence. The tips of the blades are burnished and uniformly bent. The propeller will be transferred to the Board's laboratory in Washington, D.C. for metallurgical analysis.
The Board has retrieved the vessel's GPS (Global Positioning System) Furuno Chart Plotter and will transfer it to the NTSB lab in Washington for examination.
On June 18, Safety Board investigators were given a tour of Tillamook Bar and its surrounding area aboard a United States Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat. Investigators continue to interview local vessel operators, crewmembers, Coast Guard personnel on duty that day, passengers and witnesses. Investigators expect to be on scene into the weekend, after which time the investigation will resume in Washington, D.C.