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A Fishing Boat Has Been Stuck On A Reef Off Waikiki For Days, And Now It's On Fire

The commercial vessel did not send out a distress signal, but all 20 men on board were saved after witnesses reported the crash.

Posted on October 16, 2017, at 1:34 a.m. ET

A commercial fishing boat that ran aground off the coast of Hawaii remained stuck on the reef Sunday, after it caught on fire.

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The 79-foot, US-flagged commercial fishing vessel, named Pacific Paradise, has been marooned on the reef since Tuesday, when it ran aground in shallow waters about 400 yards offshore, the US Coast Guard said in a statement. The coastal waters, located off of Oahu's Diamond Head and Kaimana Beach, are full of coral reefs.

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Although the ship did not send out a distress call, the Coast Guard and Hawaii Fire Department managed to save all 20 men on board, after witnesses on land reported the ship had crashed. Officials have said they aren't sure why the ship didn't call for help.

John Manganaro/US Coast Guard / Via AP

The 20 people rescued included 19 were foreign fishermen, as well as the captain, who is an American citizen.

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Two crew members were hoisted from the fishing vessel by a helicopter, and flown to Honolulu's airport where they were met by police and immigration officials.

The rest of the foreign crew is being held at a pier in Honolulu by US Customs and Border Protection because they do not have visas to enter the United States. The agency did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for additional information about the fishermen.

The Honolulu-based ship was staffed by fishermen from Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. They are among the hundreds of undocumented foreign workers employed by Hawaii's fishing fleet, thanks to a federal loophole that also excludes the workers from basic labor protections.

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A 2016 Associated Press investigation found that these foreign workers labor on Hawaii's fishing boats in squalid conditions for little pay, as well as instances of human trafficking. But state lawmakers have failed to pass legislation that would close the loophole, and the system operates with the tacit support of the federal government.

Coast Guard officials said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

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Since the Pacific Paradise ran aground offshore, US Coast Guard has been working to remove fuel from the boat, which was carrying about 4,500 gallons of gas.

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"We are working diligently with the salvage team and our partners to ensure a safe and deliberate response," said Capt. Michael Long, commander of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, said Friday. "The safety of the public and the environment remain our top priority. We have removed about two-thirds of the fuel aboard significantly reducing the pollution threat."

A salvage company made a first attempt to tow the boat during high tide Friday, but the tow lines snapped, the AP reported. The company reattached the lines and was able to move the boat about 150-feet before the tide became too low.

The salvage company was planning a second attempt to tow the boat Saturday when the vessel caught fire, US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir told the AP.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Coast Guard officials said.

The boat has two diesel tanks under its deck, where the fire started, and still had 1,500 gallons of fuel on board when the blaze began. Some of the fuel was released into the ocean during the blaze, but it was not clear how much, Muir said.

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The fire was still burning Sunday as firefighters used a helicopter to dump water on the ship.

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The water dump helped smolder the fire, but plumes of smoke continued to shoot up from the vessel.

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The tow lines were damaged in the fire and the salvage company said it would have to reevaluate how to tow the ship in the coming days. Until then, beachgoers in Hawaii will continue to watch the ship burn.

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BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Coast Guard for additional information about the incident.