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Weather Delays Boat Pull in Oregon

February 24, 1999

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) _ Fog and howling wind grounded a helicopter needed to rig an 1,100-yard cable to the broken bow of the stranded cargo ship New Carissa, thwarting plans to haul it off the beach.

If the cable can be attached, plans call for the tug Sea Victory to make the first attempt to pull the charred bow of the ship and the thick oil remaining inside off the sand tonight, said Phil Carroll, spokesman for the federal and state authorities overseeing the project.

It is to be towed 200 miles offshore and sunk in deep water.

The 639-foot Japanese-owned ship ran aground Feb. 4 while waiting to enter Coos Bay for a load of wood chips. At least 70,000 gallons of fuel have leaked into the ocean within sight of nesting habitat for the Western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird.

A total of 80 dead birds have been found on nearby beaches, 36 of them coated with oil. Commercial oyster beds remain closed and recreational shell fishing is on hold.

A Navy explosives team set the ship afire in a spectacular blast aimed at burning the 400,000 gallons of gooey black fuel on board. The ship broke apart after the fire, and despite repeated efforts to burn off the fuel, the bow still held thousands of gallons of oil.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office late Tuesday opened the formal inquiry into the grounding, focusing on why the ship’s captain chose to ride out a storm so close to shore.

The first witness, maritime expert John Betz, appeared to back the captain with his testimony that anchoring just offshore in shallow water is accepted industry practice.

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