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Officials: Shrimp boat anchored in Beaufort Co. to avoid Florence overturns, leaks fuel

A shrimp boat rests on its side in the May River on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 The boat was anchored off of Bull Island to ride out Hurricane Florence, overturned and appears to have leaked fuel into the water.
A shrimp boat rests on its side in the May River on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 The boat was anchored off of Bull Island to ride out Hurricane Florence, overturned and appears to have leaked fuel into the water. Submitted

A shrimp boat anchored in the May River to avoid Hurricane Florence overturned and appears to have leaked fuel into the water, state and local officials said Saturday.

Beaufort County dispatchers alerted the S.C. Department of Natural Resources about the possibility of a vessel leaking fuel on Saturday, said David Lucas, a DNR spokesman. A DNR officer and official with the Department of Health and Environmental Control visited the site and found a shrimp boat overturned off of Bull Island.

The boat had taken on water and a sheen was visible on the water from an apparent fuel or engine fluid leak, Lucas said. The U.S. Coast Guard will take over and investigate the leak., he said.

The boat appeared to have dragged its anchor and run aground, tipping over towards the water when the tide went out and filling with water then the tide came  in, said Larry Toomer, owner of Bluffton Oyster Co. and a Town Council member. Toomer said he contacted the boat’s owners and a local dock builder who plans to bring a barge and heavy machinery to try to right the boat Sunday.

Toomer said the boat was older but seaworthy and able to be pumped out and saved if done quickly. He said he smelled fuel in the area Saturday morning and saw discoloration in the water from fuel leaking from the boat Saturday afternoon.

“Not a huge amount, in my opinion, but it’s enough concern for me that action needs to be taken sooner than later,” Toomer said.

The boat is named “Miss Annie,” according to photos Toomer provided. A federal permit tied to the boat’s identification number was issued to King Cooper, of Fayetteville, Georgia, National Marine Fisheries records show.

Attempts to find a contact for the boat’s owner and captain weren’t successful late Saturday.

The owner is out of Georgia and the captain from Hilton Head Island, said Tonya Hudson, of Benny Hudson Seafood.

She said Miss Annie doesn’t dock at her market but the captain sold her about 600 pounds of white shrimp on Monday and told Hudson he planned to anchor the boat in the Savannah River during Hurricane Florence.

He apparently chose an area near the mouth of the May River instead. 

DNR received a call and visited the boat in the May River on Wednesday, but it wasn’t leaking fuel at the time, Lucas said. 

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