Aug. 8, 2002 – A propeller from the sportfishing boat Stray Dogs that plowed into Johnson's Reef off St. John early Sunday remains stuck on the reef, V.I. National Park Superintendent John King said Thursday.
"The boat was traveling at a high rate of speed," King said.
He said a number of coral fragments broke off when the 65-foot Hatteras hit the reef. The bulk of the damage was done to fire coral, although some brain coral also suffered injury, he said. Fire coral makes up much of the reef.
King said that while rangers initially gave the captain, Scott Michael Leon, citations for negligent operation and striking an underwater feature, he later also received a ticket for operating a vessel under the influence. Leon "failed a field sobriety test," King said.
Leon, the hired captain of the boat, gave his address as Davie, Florida. The boat was heading from the William Thornton, a popular floating bar off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands, to St. Thomas. On board along with the captain were seven passengers and a crew member.
Another boat removed the passengers from the Stray Dogs following the 1:30 a.m. Sunday incident. No one was injured. Lt. John Reinert, supervisor of the U.S. Coast Guard marine safety detachment on St. Thomas, said the matter is under investigation.
The Coast Guard also is still investigating an April 7 accident in which the ferry boat Voyager Eagle ran aground on Johnson's Reef.
National Park Service personnel are still working out how much to assess the owners of the ferry, the Tortola-based Native Son Inc., for repairs to the reef damage then. The captain, Renel Lee Chalwell, received citations from the park for negligent operation and striking an underwater feature; he also faces disciplinary action by the U.S. Coast Guard.
King said the owner of the Stray Dogs also will face a bill for repairing damage to Johnson's Reef. Coral transplants that were made to help repair the damage caused by the Voyager Eagle appear to be taking hold, he said. Park staff will use the same technique to make repairs from the Sunday incident, he said.
In both cases, King said, it is up to a National Park Service economist to put a price tag on the damage.
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