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SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — The Coast Guard says it cannot remove, mark or light an old quarantine platform in the Cape Fear River near Southport where a woman died in a boat accident last year. But the woman’s husband says that won’t keep him from doing something about it.

Ed and Barbara pierce and two friends were sailing after dark in August 2012 when they hit an old, concrete quarantine platform near the mouth of the river. Barbara died.

In a letter to Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-7th District), Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, the Coast Guard’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, says the structure, built in 1895, is 165 yards outside the boundaries of the river’s marked navigable channel.

“Since the obstruction is outside of the marked navigable channel, it is also beyond the Coast Guard’s purview to remove,” Rear Adm. Poulin wrote. “However, should the State of North Carolina or other public or private entity, including the owner, decide to pursue marking or removing the structure, the Coast Guard would be available to provide technical assistance as necessary.”

Since his wife’s death Ed Pierce has made it his mission to get caution lights on the platform.

“I already made a decision that I was going to light that platform and actually purchased the appropriate marine amber solar powered lights out of my pocket,” Pierce said.

It was not clear in the letter who may own the platform.

He says he spent close to $400 dollars on the lights so no other family has to suffer the way his has.

“All kinds of things have come to light about the history of this and the fact that no one will lay claim to it,” Pierce said. “I still have in the back of my mind that someone is worried there is going to be some sort of lawsuit.”

Pierce, though, says he has no plans to sue. He hopes to put the lights on the platform this weekend.

Poulin’s letter said there are no Coast Guard, state or local records that document a case of a boat hitting the platform before the accident that killed Barbara Pierce of Wilmington on Aug. 4, 2012.

“Finding a solution that protects the safety of boaters while also recognizing the historical significance of this site is still the goal,” McIntyre said in a statement, “and we stand ready to work with the state and any others to achieve this.”

Comment on this Story

  • Leon Hicks

    Regardless of the cause of the tragedy, placing a cheap light on top of a concrete obstacle in the water can’t hurt. I think citizens (especially boaters) should take more initiative in making our waterways safer and cleaner.

  • windy

    Let’s not waste the Coast Guard’s time on investigating this platform, which CLEARLY should be seen by anyone on the water. It’s not like it’s submerged. Boaters need to exercise better judgment and maybe lay off the booze.

  • KrisC

    All people are not inebriated when boating and even if they are, most can still see a blinking light. This platform is most certainly a danger to the public. The owner should be identified, and if they cannot be, then some public agency should be held responsible to either mark it adequately or remove it, not just pass the buck, abdicating boating safety of the public by doing absolutely nothing.

  • Dean Samuels

    The Captain of the boat was not drunk. He had 20 years experience in these waters. He got out of the channel for an oncoming barge. It happened at night and NO you cant see it. I was at the dock when the Coast Guard and a civillian boat brought in the victims. Had you seen the outcome of the crash you may have a different opinion.

  • Greenie

    Maybe you’ve never piloted a boat at night? I have almost nailed the green (unlit) floating channel marker at Shinn creek(the major waterway out to wrightsville beach inlet) MANY times. On a moonless night, even a spotlight will only show a structure or a random piling at the last second unless a reflective marker is on it. I understand the Coast Guard’s response, but maybe a little pressure on the owner to buy $50 worth of reflectors will prevent another tragedy. Personally, any structure in any waterway should have a reflector, and any in the channel should have a solar light on it.

  • guestwho

    Perhaps you’re not aware of this daily phenomena we here known as “night time”. Turns out it makes things hard to see.

  • Denali

    Must be great to be able to see in the dark windy.

  • Ralph

    I was always taught if you can’t see things to go slow enough that you do no damage.
    Many nights it took me hours to get home from downtown to CB.
    A few nights it took a lot of extra time when I got out of the channel leaving Wrightsville Beach.
    Speed kills

  • Greenie

    Per my post, costs nearly nothing to put a reflector or a solar light on structures and pilings. So why not?

  • Guest-o-matic

    If you knew anything about nautical charting, you’d realize that you don’t mark items with beacons that are outside the channel. If you do that you have to place it on the charts so mariners won’t get it confused with official beacons.
    However, painting the sides with red reflective paint and white letters that spell “DANGER!” would be a great help for those that don’t know where they are going or how to navigate in the river channel marking system. Even in those cases, they would need the common sense to slow down and use a spotlight to sweep their course. That river gets as dark as anything I’ve ever seen at night with no moon out.

    It’s proven fact that you just cannot engineer solutions to accommodate idiocy and lack of good judgment! One has to be as safe and knowlegeable on the water, she is strong and doesn’t always give second chances!

  • Greenie

    Do you ever wonder why you don’t get invited to parties? Take it down a notch, buddy. I clearly said the pilings in the channel need to be lit, and the structures and pilings outside should have reflectors. A good idea would be to have a different color. In the case being discussed, I don’t think it would have helped though. Think about it, even a sailboat at anchor has to have a white light burning to mark it’s location for boaters.

  • Guestilm

    So, then all the piers that people have build all over the waterway should have lights on them? Come on, I have lived on the water all my life, both IC and rivers and you have a light looking ahead if you don’t know the area. I am sorry for the person losing their life, but put the blame on the driver of the boat. If they don’t know the area, then they should be stop or going slow and using a light to see where they are going.

  • Guest-o-matic

    …she knows very little about. She routinely makes assumptions that are fully incorrect.

    Now as far as the platform goes, it’s nearly 2 freekin’ football fields outside of the navigable channel. Nobody should be in that area anyway unless maybe they are completely lost or fishing around it. There’s plenty of room for large and small vessels INSIDE the marked channel. It is prudent practice to steam very slow at night, pay attention to your course and charts and always sweep with a spolight. Even reflective daymarkers are invisible in the dark. There was absolutely no good reason for him to be in that area of the channel…he was disoriented.

    Bottom line. If you don’t know where you are, you aren’t using your charts, you aren’t using your spotlight and are going too fast, you’re going to hit something! It’s only a matter of time!

  • USCG Retired

    The State of North Carolina’s responsibility? For those of you calling for it to be marked…get yourself some retroreflective tape and head on out there! So the Congressman, opportunist that he is, called on the Coast Guard to take responsibility. What about the great North State? Is this not in the State’s jurisdiction, or New Hanover County’s (Brunswick)?

    The Coast Guard has concurrent jurisdiction over some issues/crimes inside the baseline…but this is North Carolina’s problem to solve…or some enterprising North Carolinian.

    Condolences to the gentleman who lost his wife…but government can’t solve everything. That is on display every day!

  • Guest2020

    I feel bad for this man losing his wife, but please keep in mind that the platform is 165 yards outside of the marked navigable channel. It is not the government’s responsibility to remove this platform because one boat hit it by straying outside of the lines.

  • 1234543

    Well must not be any money in it for mike, but on the flip side, it is not in a navigable channel and it is unfortunate, there are a lot of obstructions that are in or near inlets that the corp and coast guard refuse to mark for historical value, rusted out heaps that have 0 value, so go figure. they account for a lot of damage to personal property.

  • okilocal

    This man is NOT trying to blame anyone for any of this.
    He is simply trying to light up the platform so that it may prevent this sad and unfortunate event from happening again.

    YOU PEOPLE ARE SO HEARTLESS- this man’s WIFE passed away. Yes he could have done this, the platform could have previously been lit, there could have been other boats, and so on but THIS HAPPENED.
    While he can’t change the past, he is trying to help the future. If it were you and your family, you would probably be acting the same way, if not trying to blame it on everyone else.

    Mr. Pierce- I am deeply sorry for your loss. It very well could have been me, you, or anyone else. I have been on those waters many of times in my life, it can be dangerous at times. I hope that you find peace from lighting the platform and that others can benefit it.

  • guestibles

    “Affairs, says the structure, built in 1895, is 165 yards outside the boundaries of the river’s marked navigable channel.”

    “Poulin’s letter said there are no Coast Guard, state or local records that document a case of a boat hitting the platform before the accident that killed Barbara Pierce of Wilmington on Aug. 4, 2012.”

    So, for 117 years, boaters, ships, vessels, what-have-you, have been able to avoid this structure, even at “night” time, yet these people still hit it? I believe the original poster was right, people need to exercise better judgement and lay off the booze.

  • danny swan

    I am a coast guard certified master of motor and steam ret I have been running the cape fear river for many years and this the first time that anybody has hit that structure and I have worked the river in fog and snow and other types of bad weather and had no problem with the platform. the man in question had no business sailing the river if he didn’t know what was their.


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