6 Rescued After Boat Grounds Off Barnegat Light

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. -- Six people were rescued Thursday morning off the coast of Barnegat Light when the boat they were riding ran aground and began to take on water.

Albert G. Stork and Dennis R. Koleszar, both of Lacey Township; Gary Mertz, from Northampton, Pa.; Bill Sagion, of Little Egg Harbor Township; Albert Kristoff, of Glenshaw, Pa.; and John Wargofchik of Greensburg, Pa., were all rescued a life raft, a Coast Guard news release said.

There were no injuries, the release said.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jay Greiner, commanding officer of Station Barnegat Light, said in the news release that preparation is key.

"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.

"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," Greiner said.

Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders in Philadelphia received a radio transmission at about 7:45 a.m. from the vessel Southern Comfort, alerting the Coast Guard that the boat ran aground on the rocks while operating in Barnegat Light's north jetty, the release said.

Passengers abandoned the 38-foot sinking vessel out of Lacey Township, a release said.

Crews on rescue boats from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light arrived at the scene of the submerged vessel, rescued the six passsengers and transported them back to the Barnegat Light station. At that time, the Southern Comfort left the rock jetty and sunk.

Southern Comfort is not considered a navigation hazard at this time, but the release said a crew remains on scene to maintain a security zone around the sunken vessel until salvage plans are made. Coast Guard pollution investigators are investigating the accident because the boat is reported to have approximately 350 gallons of diesel fuel.

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