Vessel catches fire in waters off Tinian

LOUISA BELL: The Louisa Bell was on its way back to Saipan when it caught fire Tuesday morning in the waters off Tinian. Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Safety

SAIPAN – A 30-foot vessel caught fire in the waters off Tinian on Tuesday morning.

The Tinian Department of Public Safety's Boating Safety Unit responded and rescued the Louisa Bell's two passengers, said DPS spokesman Dre Pangelinan, adding that both are OK.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which was informed about the incident, advised the Boating Safety Unit to tow the burning vessel 2 miles out, and to monitor and let it sink on its own, said Tinian DPS Resident Director Mathew Masga.

As of 10:44 a.m. Tuesday, the vessel was 90% submerged near Goat Island, he said.

Tinian DPS had also advised other mariners to stay away from the sinking vessel.

"The vessel was on its way back to Saipan (on) Tuesday morning when it caught fire," Masga said.

Investigation underway

The incident is under investigation and the cause of fire is undetermined.

The Boating Safety Unit was dispatched at 7:25 a.m. and reached the burning vessel 15 minutes after the call.

"Responding units reported that its one passenger and the captain were safe," Masga said.

The vessel's captain is Mariano Lelurman and its owner is Cecilio Rauikiulipiy. It was used to transport goods from Saipan to Tinian and Rota. Its main customers are retail stores.

As of press time Tuesday night, the vessel was fully submerged between Tinian's Carolinas Point and Goat Island.