The Beaufort-based fishing vessel Sea Angels ran aground near Brown’s Inlet east of Camp Lejeune Monday morning. Her four crew members were quickly hoisted to safety by a US Coast Guard air crew aboard a Jayhawk helicopter, and no injuries were reported.
Three days after the incident, Sea Angels, which is not leaking fuel and appears to have minimal damage, is still sitting on the shoal she ended up on.
But there’s good reason for the boat’s stay near the inlet: no one wants it – or anyone – to accidentally blow up.
Brown’s Inlet is adjacent to Brown’s Island, also known as the N-1/BT-3 Impact Area, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The island is a multi-purpose range used by that allows for air-to-ground weapons training as well as riverine, live-fire, direct field artillery, and machine gun training.
Wednesday afternoon, the Coast Guard established a unified command to oversee the safe removal of Sea Angels. The command includes the Coast Guard, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the State of North Carolina, Onslow County Emergency Management, and the owner of the vessel.
Click the video to watch the rescue:
“Our priority is ensuring the safety of both response personnel and the public while mitigating potential environmental impacts,” said Capt. Bion Stewart, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.
“We are thankful for the expertise of our interagency partners, which is instrumental to the response efforts.”
Officials have not said whether there are known unexploded ordnances in the area, or if they are being cautious due to the vessel’s location.
Crew told the Coast Guard that the vessel had mechanical issues before running aground on the sandy shoal just outside of the restricted training area.
There is still an estimated 15,000 gallons of diesel on board, but no pollution has been detected.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey McConnell told The Beacon Thursday morning that there was not yet a plan in place as to how to re-float Sea Angels, but that the unified command was working on a solution. McConnell said the salvage mission could start as soon as today.
Sea Angels is owned by Chris and Debbie Fulcher of Oriental, but her home port is registered as Beaufort. The family also operates several seafood processing businesses.