EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 29, 2009

Pair rescued from Merrimack River

(Continued)

According to a Coast Guard press release, the call came in at 8:42 p.m.

A 47-foot motor lifeboat and a 25-foot response boat were sent to the scene. The response boat crew arrived seven minutes after the initial radio call and rescued the two people, who were clinging to the hull of the pleasure craft.

The men were relayed to the Salisbury harbormaster, who took them to a marina in Salisbury.

Though the ending was a happy one for the two fishermen, the incident coming so soon on the heels of the deadly boating accident Wednesday night is a stark reminder of what can happen when boaters set out in bad weather or without proper knowledge of area tides and conditions at the mouth, Salisbury police Chief David L'Esperance said.

"That river is treacherous," L'Esperance said.

Foggy conditions Saturday night were similar to those encountered by Coellner and his four-person boating party as they tried to find their way to Newburyport harbor around what locals refer to as the "dog leg" of Salisbury's north jetty. Low visibility is thought to have contributed to the disorientation of the four boaters, three of whom swam to safety after their boat slammed headlong into the rocks.

Even as officials from Tow Boat US raised the fiberglass forward deck and pulpit of the 36-foot Chris Craft yesterday afternoon, the ship's hull had yet to be located, and there are still questions over what caused Coellner, a trained Coast Guard captain with boating experience, to run into the jetty.

Following the accident, Coellner is being credited with saving the lives of his three passengers by staying aboard the vessel and calling for help.

Coellner has still not been found, and the Coast Guard called off its search for the young husband and father on Friday.

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