Ships's Sinking Put On Hold

Bad weather Wednesday grounded a helicopter that was to attach a 1,100-yard cable to the bow of a stranded cargo ship, reports Correspondent Mike Donahue of CBS Affiliate KOIN-TV.

Fog and howling winds thwarted plans to haul the New Carissa off the beach.

If the cable can be attached to the ship, the tug boat Sea Victory will make the first attempt to pull the charred bow of the ship off the sand, said Phil Carroll, spokesman for the federal and state authorities overseeing the project.

The ship will be towed 200 miles offshore and sunk in deep water.

The 639-foot Japanese-owned New Carissa ran aground Feb. 4 while waiting to enter Coos Bay for a load of wood chips.

At least 70,000 gallons of fuel have leaked into the ocean within sight of nesting habitat for the Western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird.

A total of 80 dead birds of various species have been found, 36 of them oiled.

A Navy explosives team set the ship afire in a spectacular blast on Feb. 11, and the burning ship broke in two by the next morning.

The bow section of the 640-foot vessel still had one-third of the original 400,000 gallons of gooey black fuel oil aboard, despite the efforts to burn it off.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office late Tuesday opened the formal inquiry into the grounding, focusing on why the ship's captain chose to ride out a storm so close to shore.

The first witness, maritime expert John Betz, appeared to back the captain with his testimony that anchoring just offshore in shallow water is accepted industry practice.