ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (WABC) --A 25-foot Coast Guard vessel capsized early Thursday while assisting a 76-foot fishing boat that ran aground off Rockaway Beach in Queens, resulting in dramatic rescue efforts but no serious injuries.
Five Coast Guard crew members, wearing protective gear, swam ashore at the Rockway Peninsula after their boat capsized in 10 to 12 foot waves following an overnight storm, according to spokeswoman Ali Flockerzi. All seven crew members of the fishing boat were rescued after a helicopter out of Atlantic City lowered ropes to pluck them off the trawler, which rocked violently in crashing waves near the shore.
They were taken to a hospital for observation, and the fisherman are doing well at Jamaica Medical Center. They are now meeting with investigators from the coast guard to figure out what went wrong.
"They could've had some mechanical issues," Coast Guard Lieutenant William Stewart said. "There could have been a number of things that went wrong that then lead us to a series of events where we're at now."
It was around 2 a.m. when the fishing vessel from Virginia called The Carolina Queen 3 ran aground. Officials are not ruling out the rough surf as the cause of the incident that left the seven trapped agbout 200 feet from shore.
"Between the conditions and mechanical issues, they wound up losing power and ended up being pushed up onto the shore," FDNY Chief George Healy said. "US Coast Guard rescue swimmer wound up going in the water, and he couldn't even handle the conditions. So the conditions are deceiving."
As the fishermen made it to land, they were quickly wrapped in blankets amid concerns of hypothermia after spending hours on the cold, choppy waters.
The Coast Guard rescue vessel capsized after striking a sandbar as it was making its way to the fishing boat, but all five members on board were able to swim safely to shore despite battling powerful 12-foot waves.
The Coast Guard boat:
The Carolina Queen 3 had been out at sea for eight days, and it took less than an hour to get the fishermen back on solid ground. As to whether they should have been out at sea during the storm, investigators say there are very minimal regulations.
"Fishing vessels have a lot more leeway to doings than, say, you know, your bigger passenger ships, your passenger vessels, those types of things," Stewart said.
The next phase is to get their boat out, an operation that may have to wait until high tide Thursday evening.