- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Alcohol was found on the power boat that plowed into a tug boat and barge in north Florida, killing five people and injuring nine others, investigators said Tuesday.

Capt. Gregg Eason of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission verified alcohol was aboard the 22-foot boat. But Eason, speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, wouldn’t say what kind of alcohol was found or whether the vessel’s operator had been drinking. Toxicology reports are still pending.

“We don’t know who was drinking and who was not drinking,” Eason said.

The boat smashed into the rear of the docked 25-foot tug Sunday in the Intracoastal Waterway near Palm Valley, about 25 miles southeast of Jacksonville. No one was aboard the tug.

On Tuesday, the power boat was being removed to a secure location so it can be examined for evidence, Eason said. Severe weather prevented investigators from working outside any sooner.

Authorities are still trying to determine how fast the boat was going, why 14 people were aboard and whether the passengers wore life vests.

“What we want to do is reconstruct the accident. What occurred prior to the accident. What occurred during the accident,” Eason said.

He noted the barge and tug boat being used to build a pier at a new home were properly moored and were not obstructing the channel.

Witnesses, including some of those still recovering in hospitals, will be interviewed once doctors clear them to speak, said Debbie Hersman, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The five killed all died at the scene. They were Jacqueline R. Allen, 44, of Jacksonville; Robert Trenton Craig, 23, of Jacksonville Beach; Elizabeth L. Rosenfeld, 20, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; Inmaculada Pierce, 42, of Orange Park, Fla.; and Olivia Rose Carretero, 23, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Investigators said it could take up to a year to complete their investigation.

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