Dog stranded for weeks aboard abandoned fuel tanker rescued by tugboat crew

Saturday, April 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ A dog aboard an abandoned fuel tanker finally has some company after 24 days alone at sea.

The crew of a tugboat rescued the dog from the tanker on Friday, a Coast Guard spokesman said. The rescuers found 2-year-old Forgea on deck and put her inside a portable kennel, Chief Petty Officer Tyler Johnson said.

``The crew had food for her and she came right up,'' said Capt. Gilbert J. Kanazawa, commander of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Honolulu. ``They didn't have to do much to get her.''

The burned-out tanker had been drifting in the Pacific, hundreds of miles southwest of Honolulu. On Friday, it was within 100 miles of Johnston Atoll, in U.S. territorial waters.

The dog had been alone on the 256-foot tanker since April 2, when the cruise ship Norwegian Star rescued the captain and 10 crew members. An engine room fire aboard the Indonesian tanker March 13 killed one crew member and knocked out power and communications aboard the ship, which serviced fishing boats with fuel and supplies.

The Coast Guard sent the salvage tugboat to prepare to move the tanker Insiko 1907 away from the island, concerned that it would break open and spill its 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

The mixed-breed white terrier appeared to be in good condition and was eating and drinking, Kanazawa said. The dog had lived on the tanker with the crew since she was a puppy.

Forgea had not been seen since Monday when she scampered below deck to evade fishermen from Honolulu trying to coax her off the ship.

An earlier $48,000 rescue attempt was abandoned after authorities said they believed the tanker had sunk with Forgea aboard. The Hawaiian Humane Society said that attempt was covered by donations and funds from the national society.

``We are thrilled,'' said Pamela Burns. executive director of the humane society. ``This is the perfect ending to a wonderful story.''

When the ship was spotted days after the fire, a Coast Guard plane dropped pizza, granola bars and oranges for Forgea.

The Coast Guard is considering towing the tanker to deep water and sinking it at a depth of about three miles, said Lt. DesaRae Atnip, public affairs officer. At that depth, the diesel fuel would dissipate before reaching the surface, she said.