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CARGO SHIP BLAMED IN LOCAL FAMILY'S DEATHS.

Byline: Associated Press

A South Korean cargo ship rammed a sailboat off New Zealand last fall after the second mate failed to give it right of way as required by international law, a U.S. Coast Guard investigation found.

The log carrier Pan Grace then came within 50 feet of three survivors in an inflatable dinghy but did not stop, the sole survivor told the Coast Guard.

Vessels at sea are required to stop and offer aid if they are aware another vessel is in trouble. Officers of the Pan Grace indicate they were unaware they had hit anything, the Coast Guard said.

Aboard the 47-foot sailboat, the Melinda Lee, were the four members of the Sleavin family of Santa Clarita.

The only survivor - Judith Sleavin, 43 - suffered a broken back in the accident and washed up on a remote New Zealand beach after drifting in the dinghy for two days.

Her husband, Michael Sleavin, 42, and daughter Anna, 7, were washed out of the dinghy in high seas. Benjamin Sleavin, 9, was asleep in a bunk in the part of the sailboat that took the brunt of the collision, and apparently went down with the sailboat.

The Sleavins had set out on a world cruise in 1993.

The Coast Guard determined their boat was rammed by the Pan Grace early Nov. 24 near New Zealand's Bay of Islands. The sailboat sank quickly in the stormy seas.

No further action is expected. The Coast Guard investigated because a U.S. boat was involved, but has no jurisdiction over Korean ships.

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported results of the investigation during the weekend. Michael Sleavin was a native of Tacoma.

The Coast Guard report said winds were at 35 mph and seas were rising to more than 12 feet when the accident occurred.

The Pan Grace's second mate, in command of the ship, spotted the Melinda Lee's running lights, which indicated the sailboat would cross the freighter's path from right to left. Under international maritime rules of the road, the Korean ship was required to give right of way.

But the second mate never sent a lookout forward to keep track of the sailboat, never reduced the ship's speed of about 10 mph, and waited five minutes before ordering a turn to try to avoid the boat, the Coast Guard said.

The ship also failed to stop after it returned to its initial course, and passed within 50 feet of the dinghy, Judith Sleavin told the Coast Guard.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 18, 1996
Words:418
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