Rescue vessels race to waters near Bella Bella as fuel barge breaks free from tug

BELLA BELLA – Members of the Heiltsuk Nation on the central coast spent an anxious night waiting for word about a fuel barge that has broken away from its tug about 45 kilometres west of Bella Bella.

The US-registered Jake Shearer was carrying about 3.5-million litres of diesel and nearly half-a-million litres of gasoline when it broke free in heavy winds late yesterday afternoon and began to drift toward Goose Island.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre says crew aboard the tug managed to drop its anchor and the vessel is no longer drifting, but a rescue tug has not yet reached the scene.

Tweets from the coast guard and B.C.’s Environment Ministry confirm that a coast guard vessel was on the scene through the night and a rescue tug is heading to the area about 45 kilometres west of Bella Bella, while more resources are on the way.

No spill has occurred, but Heiltsuk spokeswoman Jess Housty says the First Nation remembers the spill of more than 100-thousand litres of diesel last year when the Nathan E. Stewart sank in the same region — and her social media posts ask for prayers for a safe outcome.

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