FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Five men were rescued off of Diamond Head yesterday afternoon after their fishing vessel caught fire about two miles out to sea. The Honolulu Fire Department's fireboat, shown here in the distance, was called to put out the fire. CLICK FOR LARGE
5 men are rescued at sea after fishing boat burns
Five men were rescued off of Diamond Head yesterday afternoon after their fishing vessel was engulfed in flames about two miles out to sea.
The burning boat was visible from Waikiki through Hawaii Kai, and fire officials received several calls just after 3 p.m. yesterday.
Good Samaritans from the nearby Outrigger Canoe Club got in a motorboat and pulled the crewmembers from the fishing vessel Leilani from the ocean. The five fishermen came into shore, soaking wet and shivering from the wind.
All five were treated and released, and none was injured, said Fire Capt. Frank Johnson.
The fire was "very intense," said 29-year-old Paul Kolbe, a beach services employee at the Outrigger Canoe Club. Kolbe, coworker Gabe Drill and club member Bruce Black went out to rescue the five men.
Four of the fishermen were holding onto a fishing net buoy, while the ship's captain was a few yards away from them.
"He was severely fatigued and cold," Kolbe said. "Of course, we asked numerous times if there was anyone else on board, and they said no."
The crew also informed them that about 700 gallons of fuel was on board the ship, so Kolbe said they left in a hurry.
"We rescue people on a pretty frequent basis," said Kolbe. "But something like this is a first for all of us."
The Leilani is a 46-foot long fishing vessel that is based out of Kewalo Basin. Yesterday was 45-year-old Ruben Ampon's first day on the job at the boat.
"We couldn't get the fire out," said Ampon, shirtless and shivering from the cold. "We jumped in the water and were rescued. Thanks for them."
Ampon said the men were in the water for about 30 minutes before they were rescued.
The Honolulu Fire Department's fireboat was called out to put out the fire, which was reported under control at 3:55 p.m. A Coast Guard spokesman said the fire "re-flashed" and had to be put out again. The fireboat left at about 7 p.m.
The Coast Guard will investigate whether there was any negative environmental impact caused by the fire or the fuel from the boat, Johnson said.
"We're just trying to keep it from sinking but have enough water so the fire stays under control," Johnson said.
A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter will fly over the boat today with a pollution inspector to determine if there is an oil sheen. A slight sheen was reported yesterday, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The boat was still drifting yesterday around 9 p.m. The front end of the boat was below the water line and the stern of the boat stuck about six feet into the air, making it difficult to tow, the spokesman said.
Reporter Robert Shikina contributed to this story.