Sleeping Skipper Grounds Boat Near AC Pier: Authorities

A man piloting a fishing vessel and the rest of its crew are being questioned by the Coast Guard after the Jessica Heather was found grounded on the beach just a few hundred feet from Caesar's Pier in Atlantic City.

The 56-foot vessel was grounded on the beach at Missouri Avenue some time between Sunday night and Monday morning, according to Chief of Atlantic City Office of Emergency Management Tom Foley.

"You figure how many boats are out there and other ships and everything, it's a very dangerous situation," Foley said. "Just thank God it didn't hit the pier."

While no one was hurt, officials say the boat is carrying both fuel and hydraulic oil and could have hit other ships out at sea.

Atlantic City Police shut down the area near the Jessica Heather and moved it to a dock along Rhode Island Avenue. 

Both the accident and the vessel's crew are under investigation by the Coast Guard.

"We've heard a lot of rumors," Foley said. "There were rumors about it being on autopilot and the captain being asleep. We've even had some people say they saw it coming in at 11:30 last night."

None of the boats 1,000 gallons of fuel and oil leaked out.

"The vessel didn't do any damage to the environment," said Lieutenant Eric Leese of the U.S. Coast Guard. "There wasn't any impact to the structure of the pier."

If investigators find negligence, the ship's crew could be fined. The boat's owner is also facing a big bill. The boat tow alone may cost around $15,000. The owner may also have to reimburse Atlantic City for the extra police and lifeguard work.

The boat has been deemed safe though its rudder and propeller were badly damaged.

So far no one has been charged in the incident. Officials continue to investigate.

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