Owner Charged with Abandoning Derelict Vessel that Sank in Columia River

Charges are filed in Benton County District court today against the owner of a boat that sank in the Columbia River last summer, polluting the water near Finley with fuel and oil.

The Attorney General's Office is working with Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller to charge the owner of the boat, Brandon Traner, with one count of abandoning a derelict vessel, which is a boat in bad condition, and another count of polluting matters into state waters.

You may recall we brought you the story in July, when the 41-foot fishing boat sank 40 feet below the surface in the Columbia.

Nearly 50 gallons of fuel and oil spilled into the river and luckily, crews were able to prevent the potential release of an additional 160 gallons of fuel.

Traner abandoned the boat and swam to safety.

Crews worked for several weeks trying to pull the boat from the water.

The Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation that led to the charges.

There are about 150 derelict vessels in Washington waters and since taking office a year ago, Ferguson has made it a priority to take environmental crimes very seriously, trying to make sure to make sure tax payers don't have to pay for careless mistakes like this one.

"It's critically important from my stand point these are the kinds of cases that impact tax payers because it's expensive to remove these vessels and we want to protect our environment, the Columbia river which we all love and care about deeply," said Ferguson. "We can accomplish both goals and serve as a deterrent effect over those owners of vessels, those derelict vessels, we see all around the state, to make sure they take care if their vessels and don't let them sink and don't abandon them."

The charges against Traner carry a maximum of one year in jail or a $10,000 fine but Ferguson said they will also seek restitution for the more than $100,000 used for clean-up.

This is the first state-inititiated derelict vessel prosecution in eastern Washington.

This is the thrid case filed this year by Ferguson.

Owners of two derelict vessels, the Helena Star of Pierce County and the Chickamauga of Kitsap County were charged in January.

Both vessels leaked hundreds of gallons of fuel in the Puget Sound with expected clean-up costs to exceed $1,000,000.



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