SAN FRANCISCO — Owners of the tanker Golden Gate admitted on Monday that new evidence indicates their ship unknowingly rammed the fishing boat Jack Jr. and left it to sink with three men aboard.
The announcement came shortly after a robot submarine equipped with a video camera found the wreckage of the fishing boat in 300 feet of water about 6.8 miles west of Point Reyes. That is near the point where the boat sank in dense fog on May 26.
The tanker was the only ship known to be near that point at the time of the sinking, according to evidence at a Coast Guard hearing, and the Golden Gate has been the prime suspect in the collision.
The Keystone Shipping Co., which owns the tanker, has already set aside a $7.1-million fund to cover liability claims.
Jack Jr. skipper Jack Favaloro and his crew members, Vince Ingargiola and Tom McCarthy, perished in the accident. Only Favaloro's body has been recovered.
"In the tragic loss of the Jack Jr. and its crew, we at Keystone Shipping have always acknowledged that our ship may have been the one involved in this accident," Jeff Raleigh, spokesman for the Philadelphia-based company, said.
"We are extremely saddened that this most recent physical evidence appears to indicate that the Golden Gate was unknowingly involved in this tragedy," he said. "We would like to reiterate that no one on board the Golden Gate saw . . . heard or felt the Jack Jr."
In a taped radio exchange between the Golden Gate and the Jack Jr., Favaloro's last words were: "You're going to hit us! Jesus Christ! Oh my God! Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!"
The Golden Gate's implication in the sinking was based on the position of the Washington state-bound tanker before the sinking, and the fact that some netting was found beneath the ship by some divers.