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Soviet Trawler Sinks In Collision, All 15 Aboard Believed Dead

September 6, 1989

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ A Soviet trawler collided with a Finnish tanker and sank in the Baltic Sea today, and the coast guard said the only Soviet sailor who was able to abandon ship died after being pulled from the water.

The other 14 Soviet crewmen were missing and presumed dead.

″Only one man, probably the radio operator, had managed to get into the water, but he died upon arrival at the hospital,″ said Waldemar Berlin, head of coast guard rescue operations.

″I’ve worked here for 30 years and I can’t recall a more serious accident″ in the Baltic, he said.

The tanker Tebo Star collided with the trawler Labushkino at 12:11 a.m. 32 miles southwest off the Swedish island of Gotland.

The Soviet trawler sank within minutes, Berlin said, and some wreckage and an oil slick was all that marked the site.

By this morning the search was scaled down to ″virtually nothing,″ Berlin said. The operation had involved three navy helicopters, four naval vessels and 14 trawlers from the Soviet port of Kaliningrad that had been fishing in the area.

The Soviet new agency Tass, in a brief dispatch from Moscow, gave generally the same details but said the search continued for the fishermen.

The cause of the accident was not known. The weather was fair and winds were moderate at 27 mph.

The 6,000-ton Tebo Star sent out a distress signal immediately after colliding with the 75-foot-long Labushkino. A nearby Soviet trawler, the Matrosova, picked up the fatally injured sailor more than an hour after the accident.

According to rescue workers, the Finnish tanker veered to avoid a collision with another Soviet trawler when it hit the Labushkino.

Searchers found four empty life rafts, but ″they were detached automatically, and no one had had the time to go into them,″ Berlin said.

A Finnish report broadcast on Swedish radio said the Soviet trawler might have had its lights turned off at the time.

Berlin said West German authorities will question the crew of the Tebo Star, which suffered no damage, when it arrives in Kiel Thursday morning. The tanker then will continue to its original destination, Amsterdam.

Berlin said no official explanation was expected before the tanker returned to the Finnish capital of Helsinki.

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