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Six Rescued As Fishing Boat Founders Off Barnegat Light

Six people stranded on a life raft in choppy Barnegat Light Inlet today were rescued by members of the U.S. Coast Guard after their fishing boat hit a jetty and took on water.

The Southern Comfort in distress off Barnegat Light (U.S. Coast Guard)

Officials say the 38-foot Southern Comfort out of Forked River ran aground and began to sink early this morning. Watchstanders in Philadelphia received a VHF-FM distress call from the vessel around 7:45.

Coast Guard officials say all six aboard abandoned the craft and took to a raft to await rescue. They’re identified as Albert G. Stork, the captain; Dennis R. Koleszar of Forked River; Bill Sagion of Little Egg Harbor; and three Pennsylvania men, Gary Mertz, Albert Kristoff , and John Wargofchik.

They were transported aboard a 25-foot response boat and a 47-foot motor lifeboat from the USCG station at Barnegat Light. No one indicated any injuries.

The captain and crew won plaudits from Cheif Warrant Officer Jay Greiner, the station’s commanding officer. “Preparation matters,” said Greiner in a release.  “The captain and crew of the Southern Comfort did an outstanding job managing their crisis situation. Prior to them leaving the dock, the captain gave them a thorough brief of where all the safety gear was located and how to use it.”

The Southern Comfort sinking in Barnegat Light Inlet (U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard officials believe that the Southern Comfort carried about 350 gallons of diesel fuel. Pollution inspectors are monitoring for leakage. Meanwhile, they don’t consider the boat a navigation hazard. Crews are maintaining a security zone around it while salvage plans are formed.

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