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Tank May Have Unsteadied Boat

April 14, 1993

After combing through debris recovered from the Vil Vana, investigators said Tuesday that new equipment might have destabilized the boat, causing it to capsize and sink with seven men aboard.

While Coast Guard officials emphasized that their investigation is continuing, a 10- to 11-cubic-foot plastic shrimp tank found among the boat's flotsam indicates that the boat may have been poorly weighted, said Lt. Cmdr. Pete Rennard.

"An open tank placed on a vessel raises the center of gravity and makes it harder to stay on an even keel," said Rennard, who is leading the Coast Guard's investigation. "There is a fairly good indication that it may have affected its stability."

Investigators believe that the tank, which stores live shrimp in water to retain their freshness, was recently placed aboard the 41-foot fishing trawler that had departed from Ventura.

The Vil Vana has been missing since Friday, when the Coast Guard received a distress signal from the boat near Santa Cruz Island. On Saturday, search-and-rescue teams discovered three wet suits, a life ring and an ice chest containing sandwiches, floating in the water near the island.

The search was called off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

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