Ship Sink Event Ahead of Schedule


Friday, July 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former Canadian warship that was to be sunk this weekend to build an artificial reef, an event expected to draw thousands of spectators, reached its undersea destination ahead of schedule Friday after it took on water.

The HMCS Yukon sank about 12:30 a.m Friday, about 1 1/2 hours after it began taking on water off the shores of San Diego's Mission Beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three caretakers from the ship. One water pump aboard the vessel had been unable to handle incoming water, which was pouring in at a rate of 500 gallons a minute, Lt. Cmdr. Brent Lebish told KNBC television.

The caretakers were not injured, ``just a little disappointed and sad,'' Lebish said.

The cause of the sinking was under investigation. But authorities noted that at least 50 holes had been cut into the vessel to serve as passageways for divers.

The 366-foot, 2,890-ton former destroyer was to be sent down Saturday before a crowd of onlookers. Children from around San Diego were to compete Friday in the game Battleship for the chance to push the button that would have sent the ship down into 100 feet of water.

``It's a disappointment because we don't get to have the party,'' said Dick Long, president of the San Diego Oceans Foundation, the event's sponsor. He noted, however, that the ship had already been towed into position, so it sank where it was supposed to sink.

The Oceans Foundation paid $250,000 for the Yukon, which was sent down from British Columbia last year. Volunteers worked to scrap parts such as machinery and wire, and clean the vessel of potential contaminants.

Organizers expect recreational diving at the site will generate at least $2.5 million a year.

The foundation said chemical charges that had been installed for Saturday's sinking would need to be evaluated but posed little immediate danger. Divers were to be sent down to examine the ship.

Local television stations that videotaped the unexpected sinking captured images of the destroyer going under with a large banner reading: ``You sunk my battleship.''