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Good Samaritan rescues 22 after party boat apparently hits N.J. bridge

The charter vessel Starfish took on water and listed near Sea Isle, on the Jersey Shore, U.S. Coast Guard officials said. No injuries or fuel leaks were reported.

A good Samaritan guided 22 passengers to safety Monday after the New Jersey charter vessel they were on appeared to strike a bridge and take on water, authorities said.

The mid-afternoon accident happened in the area of Sea Isle, New Jersey, south of Ocean City, where the boat named Starfish is based and available for party and cruise charters, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The 70-foot catamaran appeared to strike the Townsends Inlet Bridge, most likely causing a hull breach that made it list, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham said. The captain then grounded the vessel so it wasn't in dangerously deep waters, Oldham said.

As the Starfish took on water, a good Samaritan arrived, apparently with a vessel, and took or guided those passengers to a nearby pier, she said. No injuries were reported, and the captain and first mate stayed on board to help salvage crews, Oldham said.

The vessel was not leaking fuel, oil or any other environmentally toxic substance, Oldham said.

A good samaritan rescued 22 passengers from charter boat Starfish after the boat began taking on water near Townsend Inlet Bridge, NJ.
A good samaritan rescued 22 passengers from charter boat Starfish after the boat began taking on water near Townsend Inlet Bridge, NJ.USCG Mid-Atlantic

Crews from Northstar Marine sent salvage workers to the scene, she said. They were expected to attempt to remove the water from the Starfish as well as apply a patch, Oldham said.

The charter company that operates the grounded catamaran, Starfish Boats, said on Facebook, "We are hopeful. However, the boat does have damage and will be inoperable for some time."

It promised, "We will be back!"

The enterprise has at least one other vessel, a 55-foot boat used for fishing charters. But the Starfish appears to be its namesake workhorse, capable of carrying as many as 128 passengers for parties and cruises, with room remaining for a sundeck.

Because it's a catamaran with parallel hulls, the vessel is unusually wide, at 28 feet, which might help explain its large capacity. The charter company says its nickname is "The Big Cat."

The company is family owned and has been operating in New Jersey since the 1950s, according to its website. 

The Coast Guard responded to the scene Monday, but members arrived after everyone was determined to be safe, Oldham said. The military branch would like to know who that rescuer is just to dispense credit and gratitude.

 "I don’t know who the good Samaritan was," Oldham said. "It was awesome that person was able to help so many people."