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Mast snaps aboard historic Maine schooner, killing 1 and injuring 3

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Officials say the top portion of a mast snapped and toppled on a historic excursion vessel, killing one person and injuring others aboard the Grace Bailey schooner off the coast of Maine

ROCKLAND, Maine -- The main mast of a historic excursion vessel splintered and fell onto the vessel's deck Monday, killing one person and injuring three others aboard the schooner Grace Bailey, officials said.

A nearby Coast Guard vessel began evacuating the injured passengers within minutes of the mast's catastrophic failure and collapse on the deck, which occurred while the schooner was returning from a four-day cruise, the vessel's owner said in a statement.

One person died from injuries and three people were transported to hospitals Monday, the Rockland Fire Department said. A helicopter transported one of the injured, while the other two were transported to a local hospital, fire officials said.

Charlie Weidman, owner of Charlie's Marine Service, was first on the scene at 10:26 a.m., shortly after the initial mayday, to find CPR was already being performed on one victim while another victim had a head injury and two others had crush and spinal injuries, said Weidman, a trained emergency medical technician who pulled alongside and went aboard to assist.

“It is an unforeseen circumstance,” Weidman said Monday afternoon. “No one trains to have a giant mast break on a schooner. Everyone acted with professionalism. Everyone was doing the best they could with the gifts that they had.”

Afterward, Weidman towed the schooner to Rockland Harbor.

The Grace Bailey is part of the state’s so-called windjammer fleet, a collection of sailing vessels that take people on excursions up and down the coast. It was not known how many passengers were aboard when the mast collapsed.

“My crew and I are devastated by this morning’s accident, especially since the safety of our guests is always our biggest priority. Most importantly, we are beyond heartbroken that we lost a dear friend," the vessel's captain, Sam Sikkema, said in a statement.

The schooner’s operators said they had no idea why the mast failed. The Coast Guard will conduct a full investigation into the incident, they said. No names of the victims were released.

The Grace Bailey had posted images on social media earlier in the trip, including an image the day before of passengers carving pumpkins on the vessel.

The Grace Bailey's overall length is 118 feet long (36 meters) and it can carry 29 passengers, according to its official website. It was built in Long Island, New York, in 1882.

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