Miguel Llanos /
This $2.5 million powerboat, seen here in Seattle on a publicity stop before the hoped-for record-setting round-the-world run, runs on biodiesel, a fuel made from vegetable or animal oil.
updated 3/19/2007 9:12:07 PM ET 2007-03-20T01:12:07

A pioneering, biodiesel-fueled powerboat trying to set a speed record for circling the globe collided with a fishing skiff off Guatemala's Pacific coast, leaving one fisherman missing and another seriously injured, the military said Monday.

The 78-foot trimaran's captain, Peter Bethune, said he dove into the water after the accident to try to rescue the fisherman who is now missing. "The crew is unhurt, but we are all very upset," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Army spokesman Daniel Dominguez said authorities were searching for the 51-year-old fisherman, Julio David Galiano Contreras.

None of the $3 million speedboat's crew was injured in the collision, which happened early Sunday off the coast of Tiquisate, about 45 miles south of Guatemala City, Dominguez said.

The four crew members — Bethune and Ryan Heron of New Zealand and Americans Anthony Distefano and David Stark — were taken to a navy base for questioning, Dominguez said.

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald quoted Bethune as saying the fishing boat did not have any lights on at the time of the collision.

Bethune would not confirm that information in the interview with AP, saying that he and others had been advised not to talk to the media until after they had appeared before a judge. He added that he expected the crew to remain in Guatemala at least until the end of the week.

"We are not free to roam around, we are not free to leave the military base," he said. "But we are being treated outstandingly well."

The needle-nosed trimaran with the name "Earthrace" painted on its hull was docked at a naval base in Puerto San Jose, a city on the Guatemalan coast.

The military said fisherman Pedro Feliciano Salazar, 51, was hospitalized with serious injuries, and Juan Carlos Contreras, 21, had minor injuries.

Bethune said the record attempt was being filmed for a Discovery Channel program. A press release on Discovery's Turbo Web site said two of the fishermen quickly swam to the speedboat while the third was thrown a life buoy but failed to grab it.

"Earthrace Skipper, Pete Bethune, dove into the water to rescue the third person; however the fisherman disappeared by the time Bethune reached him," it said.

The injured fishermen were treated by a doctor on the boat as they headed to port. The fishermen later told local news media the crash occurred while they were asleep on their boat.

Boat can race at up to 56 mph
According to the race boat's Web site, the carbon and Kevlar composite craft runs on biodiesel fuel and has a top speed of 56 mph.

The "Earthrace" Web site describes the craft as a "wave-piercing powerboat" from Auckland, New Zealand. It began its bid to break the world circumnavigation record of 75 days — set by British boat Cable & Wireless in 1998 — on March 10 in Barbados, and completed the first leg of the trip in 83 hours, according to a site posting.

Its next stop was to be Acapulco, Mexico, either Monday or Tuesday, said Jose Marquez, harbor master for the Acapulco yacht club. Marquez, who said he was supposed to supply the boat with about 2,640 gallons of biodiesel when it arrives, told the AP he had not had any contact with the crewmembers on Monday.

Earthrace has had other mishaps in Latin American waters. According to the Web site, the vessel's propellers nearly failed on the way to Panama, and the boat was briefly fired upon and searched in October by the Colombian navy.

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