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Investigation opened into fatal mast collapse of Maine schooner


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FILE – This photo provided by Kurt Schleicher shows the schooner Grace Bailey with its mainmast broken off the coast of Rockland, Maine, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. Kurt Schleicher via AP, File

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Coast Guard said Monday it has opened a formal investigation into a fatal accident aboard a historic schooner off the coast of Maine in which a mast fell, killing one person and injuring three others .

The mainmast of the schooner Grace Bailey broke and fell on deck on October 9. The collapse killed Dr. Emily Mecklenburg, 40, a Rockland physician.

Coast Guard officials said the official investigation aims to determine what led to the collapse and identify anything that could help improve maritime safety.

“As a member of a rescue service, I am deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said Capt. Amy Florentino, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “The Coast Guard is committed to conducting a thorough investigation aimed at identifying causal factors that will prevent an accident like this from happening again.”

The ship’s owners, Grace Bailey Navigation Company of Rockland, had no comment on the investigation, said Nicole Jacques, a company spokeswoman. The ship was carrying tourists off the coast of Maine and returning from a four-day voyage when the mast broke late on the morning of October 9.

The ship was built in 1882. It was located approximately 1 mile east of Rockland Harbor at the time. The schooner measures 120 feet (36 meters) in overall length and was in compliance with requirements when it underwent an annual inspection in May, Coast Guard officials said.

The schooner was involved in three previous accidents in recent years while under a previous owner, Coast Guard records show. The Coast Guard said Monday it sent a 47-foot (14-meter) motor lifeboat crew to help after the mast collapsed and transferred the Mecklenburg to rescuers, after which she was pronounced dead.

There were 33 people on board the Grace Bailey when the mast collapsed. The other three injured, in the head and back, were then transported to hospitals.

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