Oil Tanker Hits 3 Moored Sail Boats

The collision happened Wednesday at the mouth of the Piscataqua River near Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire

An investigation is underway to figure out how a nearly 500-foot tanker got off course and smashed into some sailboats in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The tanker involved in the crash is anchored three miles off shore at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. Coast Guard investigators were on board most of the day Thursday trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.

When John O'Brien bought his sailboat, he named it "Better Days."

And it's safe to say most days will be better than Wednesday.

"It was pretty unbelievable to see it come right out of the water and flop back down," O'Brien said Thursday. "The mast just snapped right off it. It was a little disturbing."

The Coast Guard says O'Brien's sailboat was one of three that got hit by a 477-foot tanker when it failed to navigate the turn at Henderson's Point in Portsmouth.

"Certainly this doesn't happen very often," said USCG Lt. Scott McCann.

Investigators left the station Thursday morning to start interviewing the crew and reviewing the data recorder. They say it's a Panamanian-flagged ship carrying used vegetable oil to England.

"At this point, the vessel is stable," Lt. McCann. "There's no indication that anything is leaking."

Eye witnesses say the tanker actually smashed into the shore before plowing through the boats.

"When you see the bow lift up, that's when it hit the shore, it was scary," said nearby resident Vincent Marconi who captured video on his cell phone.

"I've never seen anything like it probably never will again," said Cliff Gilman who is a sailing instructor at Kittery Point.

While "Better Days" awaits, well, a better day, O'Brien is just thankful Wednesday wasn't any worse.

"About a half hour earlier I would have been out on it," O'Brien said. "Yeah, I don't know what would I have done?"

On Thursday, divers found a giant tear in the tanker's hull. Still, Lt. McCann says nothing is leaking and there is no pollution.

A full investigation could take weeks.

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