Veteran Recreational Boater Recalls Sinking of Vessel After Striking Broken Channel Marker

Three Children and Two Other Adults Onboard
By GINA G. SCALA | Jun 12, 2019

Long Beach Township — When Joel Carriero asked his niece, her husband and their three children, ages 1, 6 and 8, to spend the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend on his 302 Scarab Sport boat, he was planning on it being a fun, family day on the waters off Long Beach Island. And it looked like it would be, too, when he headed south from the Causeway into the Intracoastal Waterway under a cloudless sky. That is, until the outing took a dramatic turn after the boat struck a broken channel marker before taking on water and sinking.

“We were just cruising along,” Carriero said in a recent telephone interview, recalling the morning of May 26. “We passed the number 79 buoy, which was starting to fall into the water. It’s been hanging there for God knows how long.”

Just south of there, about 500 yards away, in Little Egg Harbor (lower Barnegat Bay), Carriero’s boat apparently ran over channel marker 80.

“It (channel marker 80) was broken off underneath the water line and it was unmarked,” he said, noting water started coming into the boat within five seconds. “We were in the deep-water channel. I saw a beach on LBI. The boat was sinking so fast the engine shut off.”

Carriero said because his boat had outboard engines, he was able to trim the motor and restart the engine before it sunk. He did that four times. The engine didn’t start on the fifth attempt because of the water, he said.

“It was submerged,” he said. “In the meantime, I called Sea Tow for help and started screaming for help from people with docks. It all happened in minutes.”

Carriero, whose family has had a home in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township since the early 1970s and who has been boating on local waters for nearly five decades, said he used a pole to measure the depth of water. It came up to his chest.

“Thank God for that,” he said, adding he and his nephew were able to carry the kids to shore where people on private docks were waiting to help. “The boat was on the bottom of the bay in five minutes. Thank God my family didn’t die.”

Carriero said he was told by Long Beach Township police, who were the first to respond to the scene, that another boater had struck the same broken, unmarked day-beacon two days before and ended up in the hospital. He said his response to the news was short and simple: “And it’s still not marked.”

To address public safety concerns, the Coast Guard approved a temporary fix for broken channel markers in the ICW. (See related story. )

Channel marker 80 was first listed as leaning on the Fifth Coast Guard District’s local notice to mariners, which contains all relevant information on the condition of waterways within the district, in early 2016. The notice is updated every Tuesday and released every Wednesday. Any aids to navigation discrepancies reported after the notice is published is communicated by way of a radio message for boaters.

“The kids are scared because of the traumatic experience created by buoys not being marked,” Carriero said. “I need to make (others) aware of the situation to save someone else’s life. We could have lost our lives, possibly been ejected.”

The area of the ICW in question, located off the coast of the Beach Haven Crest section of Long Beach Township, is marked by a red WR buoy. The WR means there is an underwater hazard nearby. The color red coordinates with all the even-numbered channel markers. A crew from the Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation Team, based in Cape May, responded to the scene of the accident, arriving around 3:40 p.m., May 26, according to Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds. They were onsite for 30 minutes, wrapping up around 4:10 p.m., he said.

“They verified 79, 80 and 81 were on-station and watching properly,” Reynolds said, explaining on-station means the WR buoy is in proximity to its assigned position. “They’re never going to be dead-on so you try to get as close as you can to the structure.”

Reynolds said his crew found the WR buoy about 16 yards away from its assigned position, but it was on the correct side of the structure. The crew removed the buoy from the water, checked it out, performed maintenance, and placed it 7 yards closer to the day-beacon.

“It wasn’t off-station by Coast Guard requirements,” Reynolds said, noting the ICW in New Jersey is difficult to navigate due to shoaling, water clarity and boat traffic. “If you’re not 100 percent sure, slow down.”

— Gina G. Scala


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