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17 Tuna Crewmen Are Saved as S.D. Seiner Saratoga Sinks

January 22, 1986|MIRNA ALFONSO | Times Staff Writer

All 17 crewmen aboard the San Diego-based tuna seiner Saratoga were rescued when it caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Panama, the president of the American Tunaboat Assn. said Tuesday in San Diego.

A 700-ton cargo of tuna went to the bottom with the 180-foot vessel.

August Felando, tunaboat association president, said the vessel caught fire last week when an oil line below deck apparently broke while the vessel had its net cast and filled with tuna. A Panamanian tuna boat rescued the crew of the San Diego vessel.

Saratoga's captain, Manuel Vargas, had docked the vessel in the Panama Canal Zone the week before the fire for engine repairs and to allow some of the crew to fly to San Diego to attend the wedding of his daughter to a crewman.

After the wedding, the crew returned to Panama, intending to top off the vessel's hold with tuna before heading to a cannery at Ponce, Puerto Rico.

"The day that the boat sank, they had enough tuna . . . to come home," Felando said. "It was unfortunate."

With the closing several years ago of the last cannery in San Diego, many tuna boats go to Puerto Rico, where there are five canneries, Felando said.

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