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Captain Gets Probation in Alaska Ship Accident

From Associated Press

The captain of a freighter that ran aground in the Aleutian Islands and broke apart, spilling more than 335,000 gallons of fuel, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of making a false statement to federal investigators.

Kailash Bhushan Singh, 53, of New Delhi was sentenced to three years’ probation, which he will be allowed to serve in his own country.

Singh admitted in U.S. District Court that he initially told investigators the wrong time when the Selendang Ayu’s engines were shut down and the vessel went adrift. A few days later, he told investigators the truth.

By the time the distress call was made, only a tug badly underpowered for the rescue mission was available. It took more than 10 hours to reach the vessel, and the tug could do little but slow the drift.

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Experts have said the disaster might have been avoided had the skipper immediately called for help.

The Selendang Ayu was hauling soybeans from Tacoma to Xiamen, China, when an engine malfunction developed Dec. 6. The 738-foot vessel drifted and then ran aground Dec. 8 off Unalaska Island.

Six members of the 24-member crew died when a Coast Guard helicopter crashed during a rescue attempt.

Singh, a captain for 17 years, at first told investigators he shut off both engines about 2 1/2 hours later than he really had.

At Wednesday’s two-hour hearing in Anchorage, Singh apologized.

“I would definitely do it in a different manner now,” he said.

The Selendang Ayu was owned by the IMC Group of Singapore. “We’re very sorry that this whole tragic accident happened,” IMC Group spokesman Jim Lawrence said.


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