Boat's Sole Survivor Says Wood Plank Saved Life

The sole survivor of a scallop boat disaster that killed six people says a wooden plank saved his life.

Jose Luis Arias says he jumped overboard when the Lady Mary began sinking on March 24. Floating on his back so water wouldn't fill his survival suit, he told investigators Tuesday that he paddled away from the boat so it wouldn't suck him under as it went down.

Arias found an 8-foot-long piece of wood he had used on the boat floating in the water, and clung to it for two hours in darkness.

When a Coast Guard helicopter arrived after daybreak, he says he felt like he was "born again."

Earlier, the panel heard autopsy results showed the captain and one crew member had used marijuana.

Autopsy results show two fishermen aboard a scallop boat that sank off the New Jersey coast had used marijuana.

But an expert drug screener says how recently they had done so and whether it might have impaired their judgment and performance aboard the Lady Mary could not be determined.

Timothy Smith and Royal Smith Jr. were among six crew members who died when the boat sank 60 miles off Cape May on March 24.

Testimony on their toxicology reports came Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Costantino during a Coast Guard inquiry into the cause of the disaster.

The lone survivor of the wreck, Jose Luis Arias, is to testify later Tuesday. Tests showed he had not used drugs.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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