Varlack Venture?s Capitol Venture, above at the Cruz Bay dock, was back in service after the mid-week collision with a charter sailboat on a sunset cruise on Wednesday, October 23 off Red Hook, St. Thomas.
RED HOOK ? U.S. Coast Guard marine investigators from Marine Safety Detachment St. Thomas are investigating the cause of a Wednesday, October 23, evening collision between the passenger ferry Capitol Venture and the commercial daysail vessel New Horizon, which occurred approximately a half nautical mile east of the Red Hook, St. Thomas, Channel entrance.
The incident was reported to the Coast Guard by the crew of each vessel at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a USCG press release issued on Thursday morning, October 24.
?Following the collision, the Capitol Venture, carrying 176 passengers and five crew, continued to make its way to the Red Hook ferry terminal, while the New Horizon, with 24 persons and four crewmembers onboard, proceeded to Sapphire Marina, where they were met by Coast Guard marine investigators,? according to the USCG statement.
Delrise Varlack of Varlack Ventures had no comment on the incident, citing the active U.S. Coast Guard investigation.
Sailboat Owner Has Conflicting ReportsThe owner of the 65-foot New Horizons, which has conducted day sails and sunset cruises from St. Thomas for most of the past two decades, told the Virgin Islands Daily News he received reports from the passengers and crew aboard his vessel which conflicted with the USCG report.
Tim Krygsveld, who was off-island at the time of the incident, did not return a telephone call for comment from St. John Tradewinds on Friday, October 25.
No major injuries were reported to the Coast Guard from the 176 passengers and five crew members on board the ferry, while a minor toe injury was reported from one of the 24 passengers and four crew members aboard the sailing vessel who was treated by Emergency Medical Service personnel in St. Thomas, according to the USCG press release.
St. John Rescue members are ready and willing to transport deceased residents and visitors to the island morgue facility at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center for transport by officials of the Coroner?s Office to St. Thomas.They just aren?t able.
After months of negotiations with government officials, the private non-profit emergency services group is still trying to work out legal and liability issues involved with transporting deceased accident or crime victims or those who have died of natural causes at home on St. John to the health department facility for safekeeping until they can be transported to St. Thomas.
?They have protocols ready for us,? St. John Rescue president Andy Vacharat said of negotiations between the private non-profit St. John Rescue and numerous government agencies over the issue. ?There are so many agencies involved it?s going to take some time.?
In the interim, on the heels of horror stories including one September incident in which a drowning victim was left on a V.I. National Park beach for hours until VINP law enforcement officers brought representatives of the Coroner?s Office from St. Thomas by National Park Service boat to transport the body to the morgue on St. Thomas, St. John rescue officials are still working on a permanent solution.
?They have EMS to take charge of transports? as far as I understand,? Vacharat said tentatively of the interim solution.St. John Rescue has not given up on finding a permanent solution to the dilemma, Vacharat said.
?If Rescue is not able to do it, for whatever reason, we have spoken about forming a separate entity,? Vacharat explained. ?We?re looking into doing it on our own.?
Vacharat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karl Callwood and Jason Budsan testify at the plastic ban hearing on Friday, October 24.
Senator at Large Craig Barshinger listens as V.I. Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment co-chair Sen. Clarence Payne addresses testifiers at a hearing on a bill to ban disposable shopping bags in the territory.
CRUZ BAY ? Two Virgin Islanders who are focused on the environment were the only audience members and testifiers at a V.I. Senate hearing on a proposed measure to prohibit U.S. Virgin Island businesses ?from providing customers with plastic bags to carry items purchased? at an Friday afternoon, October 24, hearing at the Cruz Bay Legislature Annex.
The testifiers had strong support from the Senate committee members present ? and one, Senator Samuel Sanes, made an historic appearance at the hearing via the Skype internet program.
Jason Budsan, president of the V.I. Conservation Society and the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John, and EAST member, environmental activist, diver and videographer Karl Callwood testified in support of Senate Bill No. 30-0387 Plastic Bag Ban of 2014 sponsored by Senators Shawn Michael Malone Nereida ?Nellie? Rivera-O?Reilly.
GHS Program Supported LegislationThe legislation also has been championed by students from The Gifft Hill School on St. John, and Dr. David Minner, EARTH (Education And Resiliency Through Horticulture) Program Outreach Coordinator at Gifft Hill School submitted written testimony in support of the legislation to ban disposable plastic shopping bags.
?Our second EARTH program goal relating to place-based environmental science is closely aligned with the proposed bill that targets pollution and endangerment of marine life by contamination with plastic carry-out bags.?
?We feel that all stores should discontinue use of this type of plastic bag as a fair approach to solving this problem,? Dr. Minner continued. ?There are ample types of alternative bags that are of superior quality and can be reused, bags that don?t require double-bagging which further multiplies the burden on the environment.?
As part of the ?recycling initiative? Gifft Hill School students, ?EARTH and Gifft Hill School ECO-Club wrote and performed a play on the importance of reducing ?plastic carryout bags? that was performed for the Virgin Islands Senate and broadcast across the territory,? the GHS educator reminded the senators.
Shopping Bags Saturate Environment?Single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags are saturating our environment and killing our wildlife,? testified Callwood. ?I am out there (on and in the water) every day and witness the damage these bags do. The saddest thing is to see a coral smothered in a plastic bag.?
?If you could see what I see you would be embarrassed for the islands,? Callwood added. ?Fortunately, we know how to fix the problem: Stop using disposable plastic shopping bags.?
Halloween can be a time for fun especially for the trick-or-treaters participating in various activities associated with the celebration. The health professionals at the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center - Jacksonville can be an important resource for parents at this time of year by providing answers concerning possible tainted candy, use of costume materials, and food borne illnesses. Parents can call the Poison Center Help Line at 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day when these questions come up. Do not search the Internet, but call your poison center immediately for the right answer the first time.
Some risks associated with Halloween activities are described below. Children under the age of six continue to be the number one victim of accidental poisonings and can easily mistake medications for treats. Last year, the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center - Jacksonville received almost 48,000 calls, nearly one-half of which involved accidental ingestions in children under the age of six. Between October 29 and November 2 last year the Help Line received over 600 calls. On October 31 alone, there were almost 120 calls for help and advice to the Poison Center Help Line.
This is also the time of the year known for fall festivals, carnivals and fairs. One of the more fun aspects of these events is the various types of food available. The not-so-fun part can be food borne illness associated with undercooked or improperly handled or stored food. The Florida/USVI Poison Information Center - Jacksonville can provide food safety education tips and management advice for food poisoning if it does occur.
?Parents should be vigilant for malicious contamination and tampering of Halloween candy,? said Dr. Jay Schauben, director of the Florida/USVI Poison Information Center - Jacksonville. ?Likewise, we can decrease the risk to children by using non-toxic paints and materials for costume design, and by paying close attention to food/candy labels to prevent food allergies.?
CRUZ BAY ? The Committees on Finance and Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation, chaired by Senators Clifford F. Graham and Myron D. Jackson respectively, held a combined meeting at the Legislative Conference Room in St. John Tuesday evening to discuss solutions for the exorbitant tax increases plaguing property owners on St. John.
?The hearing will discuss the findings and proposed solutions to the 1998 and the 2014 tax increases to property owners on St. John and examine ways to preserve the community?s land heritage ownership within the 1917 Treaty and tax structure of the Virgin Islands,? explained Sen. Jackson.
Community members participated in the discussion by sharing their own histories of how they came to possess land on the island. Stories ranged from visitors who ?forgot to go home? after more than a decade, to third and fourth generation St. Johnians occupying land owned by their ancestors. But the struggle of holding on to that lineage for future generations was one felt by all present.
Delia Thomas, a St. Johnian who owns part of an undeveloped parcel of land in Cruz Bay, spoke about the rise in taxes for a piece property that has been in her family since May of 1925. ?Although I anticipated the tax to increase about eight times the previous bill, the actual increase was twelve times?1,237 percent,? she said.
Senators questioned Ira Mills, Tax Assessor at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, who explained that the spike in property taxes occurred because rates were being given based on dated assessments. Tax bills from 2012 were based on assessments from 1998, while 2013 bills were based on assessments done in 2013.
Plenty of garbage was removed from the area near the main Coral Bay dumpsters during last week?s community cleanup.
CORAL BAY ? About 25 residents combed the shorelines and roadways of Coral Bay, removing plastic cups, aluminum cans, glass bottles and more on Thursday morning, October 23, during a community clean up.
The event was sponsored by Coral Bay Community Council and Coral Bay Yacht Club as part of Friends of V.I. National Park?s annual island-wide Coast Weeks Cleanup.
Volunteers met at Skinny Legs at 9 a.m. and then spread both along the shoreline and the roadway past the main dumpster area. Debris was removed from the mangroves lining Coral Bay harbor as well as the ball field, the old bleacher area, the basketball court and along the roadway.
One of the most heavily polluted areas, the mangroves behind and around the main dumpsters was tackled by volunteers as well.
CBCC Environmental Programs Associate Sean Richardson logged volunteer hours during the cleanup which will be counted as ?in-kind? donations towards the group?s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded Marine Debris Removal Grant.
The majority of funds from the NOAA grant ? $60,000 of the $90,000 awarded ? will be used to remove derelict vessels from Coral Bay harbor. CBCC will be committing about $50,000 of ?in-kind donations? like the volunteer hours logged last week, to the grant.
With the NOAA grant funds, CBCC officials plan to remove about 12 derelict vessels, starting in January. The group is hosting a pre-Request for Proposal meeting with potential marine salvage contractors on Thursday, October 30, at the CBCC office at 10 a.m.
For more information about CBCC and the Marine Debris Removal project, call the CBCC Office at (340) 776-2099.