(WBAY) – The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Natural Resources are investigating a Labor Day weekend incident in Door County’s Chambers Island that damaged more than 40 boats.
Witnesses said on Saturday at least 100 boats were docked near the Northern Cove of Chambers Island when a large naval ship from Marinette Marine that did a test run, creating waves that were higher than five feet tall.
The Coast Guard confirmed that the ship was the USS Milwaukee, a 378-foot-long Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
When it passed, videos show people struggling to keep their boats from tipping. One boater told Action 2 News that his anchor lines snapped from being tossed up and around, bouncing on the surge. Many boat tie-ups (several boats roped together) collided with one another, causing scratching, damage and flooding.
One boater said the worst thing “was the fear that came with it”—families with young kids rushing them to shore, and at least four Mayday radio calls. A woman badly injured her knee while trying to help control the boat, and later went to the Oconto Hospital and Medical Center. Door County EMS said they did not transport anyone to the emergency room.
Several boaters reached out to Action 2 News to investigate why the ship was out on a busy holiday afternoon.
Marinette Marine responded to request for comment saying they are aware of the incident. “Of course, our first and foremost priority is the safety and wellbeing of the boaters and bystanders and we are fully cooperating with authorities investigating the incident,” said Bethany Skorik of Marinette Marine.
The US Coast Guard and DNR have started a joint investigation. Chris Groth of the DNR explained that his department is responsible for recreational boaters, and the Coast Guard is responsible all commercial vessels.
One of the boaters told us there were at least 40 incident reports filed with the DNR when he went to file a report himself. He said Marinette Marine indicated they will work with insurance companies, adding it’s “unlikely” any of these boaters will end up paying out-of-pocket for the damage to their boats.