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Search Continues For Missing Tug And Crew

March 4, 1985

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The Coast Guard recovered a survival suit and a life jacket believed to be from a tug boat that disappeared off the California coast during the weekend, but a search continued for the tug’s six crewmen, officials said.

A body believed to be one of the crew members was sighted in the rough seas Saturday, but weather conditions prevented retrieval. By Sunday, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Wayne Winner, that body was no longer in sight.

The chances that any of the crew members are alive are ″diminishing, but there’s still hope,″ Winner said Sunday.

Coast Guard Lt. Tom Rydell said the crew of the tugboat Willamette Pilot III told authorities they were donning their rubberized survival suits - a kind of super-insulated wet suit - when they notified them that the boat was sinking in the early morning hours Saturday.

The Coast Guard has said that the survival suits, designed for cold water, could keep the crew members alive for three days.

The seven-year-old, 115-foot Willamette sank 100 miles northwest of San Francisco after it went out to recover a 365-foot barge that had broken free from another tug, the Pacific Challenge, the Coast Guard said. The reason for the sinking still was under investigation.

The seas were rough over the weekend, with waves 22-30 feet high and winds gusting up to 50 mph.

Western’s vice president, Gary Smith, didn’t identify the crew, but said all six were from San Francisco and included ″two of our top captains.″ The Coast Guard said it was withholding the names of the crew until they are found or their families were notified.

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