Last of missing crew found in sunken fishing boat

Published 2:01 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Independent salvage divers have recovered the bodies of the two remaining crew members missing since the fishing vessel Sandy Point sank last week in a collision with a container ship.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove identified the crewmen found Sunday as 48-year-old Rhoderick Watkins of Moss Point and 65-year-old Thomas L. Moore of Havelock, N.C. Hargrove said both men were found in cabins in the sunken vessel.

The body of the crew’s cook, 58-year-old Lindsey Tucker of Vancleave, was found Saturday.

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Hargrove says autopsies show all three crew members drowned.

The 163-foot Sandy Point was returning to the Moss Point-based Omega Protein plant when it collided Wednesday evening with the 660-foot Eurus London, a container ship headed to the Gulf with bananas bound for Texas.

Omega Protein has contracted with a private company to salvage the wreckage of Sandy Point.

Omega Protein spokesman Ben Landry said the company expects it to be several days before the vessel is brought to the surface.

“The dive team is really going to need to inspect what the structure looks like and get a game plan, because we don’t really know what’s down there,” Landry said.

“The details of what happened and how it happened are being handled by the Coast Guard,” Landry said. “They are still in the process of conducting their investigation and that will continue for a while.”

Landry said the vessel needs to be brought up and examined before a final incident report can be made. He said the recovery will include cleaning up any pollution caused by fuel or fish carcasses.

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Israel Parker said the channel between the western tip of Ship Island and part of the Gulfport ship channel, where the Sandy Point rests on its side in about 25 feet of water, remains closed.

Divers must remove the boat mast, which is blocking the channel. The entire process could take a few days, Landry. Once out of the water, the vessel will be taken to the Omega Protein shipyard in Moss Point for Coast Guard inspection, Landry said.