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Disaster strikes the Prowler

WON Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Just as the hottest, most consistent offshore bite of the season cranked on — disaster. The 332-foot, $300 million yacht Attessa IV plowed into the boat Prowler as she returned from a one-day trip to Seaforth Sportfishing, Mission Bay.

THE PROWLER SUSTAINED serious damage during a collision with the yacht Attessa IV. TROY LLIJEBLAD PHOTO

The Prowler was headed for Seaforth Sportfishing in Mission Bay in foggy conditions, for a 9 p.m. turn-and-burn turnaround. She was about an hour-and-thirty minutes from the dock at 7:30 p.m. Friday evening when she and the Attessa IV collided, apparently nearly head-on.

Photos now circulating online showed the results graphically. The starboard rail — gone! The starboard side of the cabin and house, crushed. The hull, from the cabin aft to the stern — torn open — down to just a foot above the waterline.

Capt. Jeffrey Markland of the Newport-based Thunderbird and close friend of the Prowler’s owner, Capt. Andrew Viola, commented, “Like a locomotive through a gingerbread house.”

Indeed, Dennis Washington, owner of the Attessa IV, is quoted by Forbes as having earlier said of the Evergreen Shipping built vessel, “Chairman Chang built the boat like a warship...” Washington is listed as the 88th richest person in America, according to Forbes 2018 list, with a net worth of nearly $6 billion.

DAMAGE TO THE Attessa IV appeared limited to scratches on the bow. DINA GRIVETTO PHOTO

The Prowler is a 60-foot Ditmar Donaldson wood vessel built for Capt. Bill Poole. She was originally christened the Polaris II. As the Prowler, she was owned and operated by Capt. Buzz Brizindine, Fisherman’s Landing, for many years. She was purchased by Capt. Viola just this past winter.

The Coast Guard reported, “A Coast Guard Sector San Diego MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and a Coast Guard Station San Diego 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew were dispatched to respond. The Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter was also diverted to assist.

“Crews arrived on scene at approximately 8:45 p.m. The Jayhawk crew hoisted a critically injured passenger and returned to Sector San Diego where awaiting EMS took the man to UC San Diego Medical Center – Hillcrest in critical condition.

“The RB-M crew transferred 17 passengers, two reporting injuries, from the Prowler and took them to Sector San Diego.”

With 28 total persons aboard the Prowler, 10 were transported to San Diego aboard the Attessa IV. Capt. Viola stayed aboard the Prowler while awaiting the arrival of a commercial salvage vessel. The Cutter Sea Otter stayed alongside.

The damage sustained by the Attessa IV appeared to be limited to scratches on the hull at the bow and partway down her port side.

James Bon said his longtime friend Rick Neff ultimately succumbed to the injuries he sustained. In another report Neff was said to have been seated in the starboard side of the galley at the time of the collision.


THE PROWLER IN the yard post-collision.

Ultimately the Prowler was successfully towed to Marine Group Boat Works in National City. Capt. Jack Webster shared a photo of the initial haul-out on the travel lift. In that image it appeared the starboard chine failed at the aft lifting straps at haul. That area was without the support of the then missing hull members. The entire starboard shear-clamp (where the deck joins the hull) was missing from just aft the flare of the bow, almost to the stern.

Scott Hennessy had captured the AIS track of the yacht, as it headed slightly west of south, outbound from Point Loma. He said the AIS feed showed the Attessa making 13.5kts at the time of the accident.

Paul Morgan, a passenger aboard the Prowler, posted, “I was on the boat last night and Andrew and the crew were nothing short of heroic. From everything I saw the Captain of the Attessa was hauling ass in the dark on autopilot and ran us down. Please pray for my friend’s wife who lost her husband.”

Few specifics were available officially, as the collision is the subject of an ongoing USCG investigation.

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