Coast Guard crew finds dog left on crippled tanker alive; plan to bring back to Honolulu

Sunday, April 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ A fishing crew rescued a dog Sunday from an abandoned tanker where it had been adrift for 19 days, Humane Society officials said.

Martha Armstrong, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the crew was onboard the Insiko 1907 and planned to bring Forgea back to Honolulu with them when they return next week from fishing.

``They were trying to calm her down,'' she said. ``She's been without company for 19 days, with several flyovers, she's probably really excited.''

Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said the white mixed-breed terrier was doing well.

``It is walking and running around, but it's quite scared,'' Burns said.

The crew of a Coast Guard plane dropped their lunches to the tanker Saturday after the 40-pound dog was seen running around the deck.

The Coast Guard had been searching for the Insiko to determine if it posed an environmental hazard to Johnston Island, about 825 miles southwest of Honolulu, Mosley said. The crew of the C130 spotted it 250 miles east of Johnston, and the Coast Guard notified a salvage company.

The Indonesian tanker was disabled by a fatal fire March 13 that killed one crewman and cut off power and communications. The crew was rescued April 2 by a cruise liner south of Hawaii, but the 2-year-old dog, which belonged to the captain, was left aboard.

The Hawaiian Humane Society quickly mounted a $50,000 rescue effort for Forgea, but the air-and-sea search ended April 7 when the tanker couldn't be found.

A fishing vessel spotted the ship again April 12, and the society contacted another fishing boat in hopes of saving the dog, but the crew couldn't find the tanker.

After the spotting Saturday, Lt. j.g. Mia Dutcher said the Coast Guard reported the tanker's position to American Marine Corp., the salvage company the society hired to find the ship and rescue the dog.

American Marine directed a fishing vessel and a tug and barge about 80 miles away to go to the area, Dutcher said.

The captain of the ship and an injured crewman flew home to Taiwan on April 6. The uninjured seamen were put up in a hotel while awaiting transportation home. They hid from authorities for 10 days but later turned themselves in.

The Coast Guard hadn't made an effort to track down the Insiko earlier because it was in international waters.

It was expected to take a day or two for the Coast Guard to analyze data to determine whether it will have to intervene to protect the Johnston Island from potential harm posed by the tanker, Mosley said.

Johnston was the home of a U.S. chemical weapons disposal facility for 10 years before operations ended in November 2000. The island was turned into a wildlife preserve.

``I don't think this will ever come up again,'' Burns said. ``We do 600 rescues a year on Oahu and none this dramatic and certainly not as expensive. But we're certainly committed to rescuing animals.''