On December 8th, at 1:35AM the Marco Island Police and Fire-Rescue Departments were notified of a twenty-five-foot commercial towing vessel which had capsized in the area of Sand Dollar Island on the north side of Marco Island. Two individuals from the towing vessel were reported in the water – in five to seven-foot waves. Numerous public safety entities responded to the Marine Emergency Response Team (MERT) call, including the Marco Island Police and Fire Rescue Departments, the Greater Naples Fire-Rescue District, and the United States Coast Guard. Responding units found that prior to capsizing, the commercial towing vessel had been towing a disabled forty-two-foot sailboat. The crew of the towing vessel swam to the beach. The two individuals (and a dog) from the sailboat left their vessel in a dingy. All were medically checked and then transported to a local marina and motel by Marco Island Police and Fire-Rescue units.
Through the early morning hours of the 8th, Marco Island Police removed hazardous items, like small fuel tanks, and other debris from the beach.
During mid-morning hours of the 8th, a second marine towing and salvage company righted and stabilized the capsized towing vessel. Additionally, all loose items or hazardous materials were removed from this vessel.
During the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th, a significant amount of debris from the sailboat washed up on the beach. Marco Island Police Fire-Rescue, and Public Works Departments spent the morning removing those items from the beach and critical wildlife area.
The Marco Island Police Department is jointly investigating the incident with the United States Coast Guard Detached Duty Office (commercial & pollution investigations).
It is anticipated that the towing vessel will be removed from the beach on or about December 10th – based on weather and sea conditions. Marco Island Police Department is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the owner of the sailing vessel to secure it and remove it as soon as practical.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was notified because this section of the beach is a part of a 456-acre critical wildlife area. At the present time there is no evidence of environmental impact to the March 1st to August 31st nesting areas.
This incident is a great example of the exceptional working relationships between public safety agencies and demonstrates why we are Better Together.