Two boats collided in foggy conditions in the waters off Shinnecock Sunday morning, leaving one sunken and five boaters awaiting rescue on a life raft, officials said.
The Elizabeth J, a fishing vessel based at Shinnecock, made a distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard at 10:50 a.m. reporting that the boat was "involved in a collision" with a pleasure craft called Nina Marie about 17 nautical miles south of Shinnecock Inlet, said Martin Betts, a public affairs officer and lieutenant junior grade with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, Connecticut.
While there were no serious injuries to the five boaters, Betts said, one of the three people aboard the Elizabeth J was ejected from the boat upon impact. The man was rescued and "brought up into the Nina Marie," he said.
"Everybody seemed to be OK, thankfully," said Betts, who couldn't name the boaters or their hometowns Sunday night.
But the Nina Marie, which had two passengers, was "taking on water quickly and sinking," so the two boaters and rescued man aboard the Nina Marie fled to the Elizabeth J, Betts said.
The Elizabeth J started taking on water too, leaving the five boaters to report to Coast Guard officials that "they were going to abandon ship," he said.
The five boaters, all wearing life jackets, boarded a six-man inflatable life raft to await help.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials, who were en route with two boats -- a 47- and 25-footer that left Station Shinnecock at 10:58 a.m. -- also had deployed two Coast Guard helicopters from Air Station Cape Cod and asked for help from nearby vessels.
Visibility at the time of the crash was "very low," at a quarter of a mile due to fog, Betts said. Seas were about four feet and water temperature was 56 degrees, he said.
Both the Coast Guard boats and helicopters arrived about noon -- slowed in their search by the low visibility, Betts said.
Also complicating the rescue, he said, was Elizabeth J's antiquated tracking technology, which didn't give an accurate location, Betts said.
A nearby fishing vessel called Adventuress -- which responded to an assistance call from the Coast Guard -- located the life raft at 12:23 p.m.
The five boaters boarded that vessel and eventually were picked up by one of the Coast Guard vessels. Betts said he didn't have the identities of those aboard the Adventuress.
The Elizabeth J sank. Officials with Sea Tow were "attempting to re-right " the Nina Marie on Sunday, Betts said.
The cause of the collision is "undetermined" at this point, Betts said. Because the crash resulted in a "marine casualty" -- the sinking of the Elizabeth J -- the boaters were required to undergo alcohol testing, the results of which are pending, Betts said.
"It's fortunate that everyone in both boats had access to a life jacket and that the fishing vessel had an inflatable life raft on board and the crew was able to deploy," Betts said.