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GUARD PLUCKS 3 FROM SINKING BOAT
SHRIMP VESSEL’S OWNER AT FIRST REFUSES RESCUE, TRIES TO SAVE CRAFT

SHARE GUARD PLUCKS 3 FROM SINKING BOAT
SHRIMP VESSEL’S OWNER AT FIRST REFUSES RESCUE, TRIES TO SAVE CRAFT

The Coast Guard plucked three men from a sinking shrimp boat Monday after the owner of the vessel at first refused to be rescued while furiously pumping water from the crippled craft.

The shrimpers were trawling in the 55-foot Three CEES when the boat sprang a leak five miles from the uninhabited barrier island of St. Catherine's south of Savannah, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gary Gamble said.Gamble said it was about 4:45 a.m. when the boat put out an urgent distress call to the Coast Guard and headed for the island.

When a rescue helicopter from the Coast Guard's Savannah Air Station found the boat in shallow waters about 1,000 yards offshore, crewman Hayworth Hutchinson agreed to be hoisted to safety by the chopper, Gamble said.

Capt. Dave Poppell, 30, of Eulonia, refused to abandon his vessel for at least 45 minutes while he pumped water from the craft in a last-ditch effort to prevent it from sinking, Gamble said.

The crew aboard a 41-foot Coast Guard patrol boat dispatched from Tybee Island finally persuaded him to abandon the craft.

"The boat was about to sink," Gamble said. "He was ready to come off when the patrol boat arrived."

At least three-quarters of the boat ended up underneath the shallow offshore waters, Gamble said.

There were no injuries, but Gamble said the men were lucky to have been found quickly.

"If they had gotten in that water, considering the cold weather, survival would have been pretty tough," he said. "It's lucky we are so close to the area."

Poppell's wife, Connie, said her husband began efforts to salvage his boat Monday afternoon and probably wouldn't make it home for Christmas.

"I am glad to hear he's safe," Mrs. Poppell said in a telephone interview from her home about 70 miles south of Savannah. "He's had little leaks, but nothing like this."

She estimated the boat was worth about $45,000.