BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Wednesday night, a marine warning was issued for boats ahead of powerful storms that moved across Western New York.
But despite the warning, a vessel belonging to a Buffalo sailing school went out. A strong wave hit the craft, and the sailboat belonging to Seven Seas sunk in the outer harbor. Captain Bill Zimmerman would not directly answer why the sailboat went out in dangerous waters. However, he says once he realized the storm was approaching, he canceled all tours. But one boat remained out on the water.
The 20-foot sailboat now sits on the bottom of Lake Erie, with its mast barely visible above the water after it capsized and sunk Wednesday night.
Capt. Zimmerman said, "The winds caused the vessel to broach where the mast dips and tucks and touches the water, which let a swamp of water in."
Despite a small craft advisory issued early Wednesday morning, the boat was out on the water with a certified captain and four students on board. All five, who were wearing life jackets, were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after the boat sunk.
"The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club had a hundred boats ready to go out. It was only after 5:30 that they canceled them. It was only after 5:30 that I canceled my boats. But there was still one out there and there is nothing you can do about that," Capt. Zimmerman said.
Sam Naylon is a former sail instructor for Seven Seas. He says the boat should not have been out on the water during this advisory.
"If I were to go out in a small craft warning, it would be for a race and I would have qualified crew. From the tape that I saw, those were student life jackets and those were students, something I would never condone," Naylon said.
Lt. Tom Pequignot from the U.S. Coast Guard says the captain should have known the limitations of his boat.
"As an operator he is responsible for the safety of his vessel," Lt. Pequignot said.
He added the incident is still under investigation.
Seven Seas contracted a diving crew to remove the gas tank, mitigating any pollution risk. The boat is expected to be pulled from the water this weekend.
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