The Coast Guard rescued six people from a life raft after the 38-foot boat they were in ran aground and began taking on water in Barnegat Inlet Thursday morning.
A crewmember on board the Southern Comfort, a sportfishing boat based in Forked River, radioed Coast Guard watchstanders at approximately 7:45 a.m. reporting they were aground on the rocks of the inlet's north jetty.
Once the boat began to sink, the crew abandoned the vessel and boarded a life raft where they waited for assistance, Coast Guard officials said in a prepared statement.
Crews from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light launched a 25 foot response boat and a 47 foot motor life boat, and rescued all six on board the life raft after reaching them a few minutes later.
Those rescued were the the vessel's captain, Albert G. Stork, and Dennis R. Koleszar, both from Forked River, Gary Mertz, from Northampton, Pa., Bill Sagion, from Little Egg Harbor, Albert Kristoff, from Glenshaw, Pa., and John Wargofchik from Greensburg, Pa.
"The captain and crew of the Southern Comfort did an outstanding job managing their crisis situation," said Chief Warrant Officer Jay Greiner, the commanding officer of Station Barnegat Light. "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. This short brief saved valuable time as they were exiting during an emergency situation."
"You never plan on this happening, but preparing for it allows you to react when necessary," he added.
Following the rescue, the fishing boat floated off the jetty and sank, authorities said. The vessel is reported to have approximately 350 gallons of diesel fuel aboard and Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Delaware Bay are investigating the incident.
Another Coast Guard crew aboard a 24-foot Special Purpose Craft from the Barnegat Light station is on scene maintaining a security zone around the area while salvage plans are made.
The vessel is not reported to be a hazard to navigation at this time, officials said.
The north jetty of Barnegat Inlet is well-known to local boaters as a hazardous area. A hidden rock jetty lies beneath the water between the end of the above-water jetty and the final marker leading the way out of the inlet to the ocean.