Alaskan Oil Spill Update
For the first time since the "Selendang Ayu" ran aground, oil has been off-loaded. Meanwhile, federal agents have launched an investigation into the accident that caused six deaths and a major oil spill. A Chinook helicopter has lifted approximately 12,000 gallons of diesel off the stricken ship during six flights. However, only 10 percent of the estimated 460,000 gallons of diesel fuel has been removed from the ship since it ran aground on December 8, 2004. The Coast Guard says that it has discovered a new hole in the sunken bow section, right underneath the word "Selendang." Meanwhile, at least one federal agent, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigator, and two Coast Guard criminal investigators have begun a criminal inquiry to determine if criminal negligence contributed to the disaster. A spokesperson for the ship's owner, Singapore-based IMC Group, said the company promises full cooperation. The federal government will have to show that either the IMC Group or the ship's captain, K. Singh, was negligent in handling the ship's engine problems or in their actions before the ship went aground. The 72,000-ton bulk cargo vessel was transporting soybeans from Seattle to China when it experienced engine trouble. The crew shut down the engine and set the vessel adrift in high seas and winds, a decision that maritime experts call as "ridiculous" or "suicidal," given the fact that the ship might have been able to make it back to Dutch Harbor, which was only 120 miles away. After the ship hit the rocks and broke in two, the Coast Guard helicopter lifted 19 crew members to safety. However, the attempt to save the last seven crew members ended tragically when a helicopter crashed into the seas. Six of the crew members disappeared in the raging seas and have not been found. The federal investigation is now the third inquiry focused on the catastrophe. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the grounding, and the Coast Guard has appointed a board to investigate the helicopter crash.