Block Island Navigation Buoys Hit by Gunfire

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll | The crew from Aids-to-Navigation Team Bristol was underway for buoy maintenance off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island on Wednesday, April 19. ANT Bristol maintained the waterways from Westerly, RI to Westport, MA.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Ida Lewis discovered a buoy sunk in the water with bullet holes, Monday, April 24, 2017, near Block Island, Rhode Island.

The crew was conducting regular aids-to-navigation maintenance when they approached Clay Head buoy number 7 and found it submerged. The crew raised the 12,000-pound buoy and found 20 bullet holes in it.

Due to the extensive damage, this buoy was taken out of service for repairs. This aid to navigation marks a large rock three feet below the water’s surface. Ferries transit this route frequently and provide critical supplies to Block Island. Buoy number 7 is supposed to be a key navigational tool for mariners and turned into a navigational hazard.

This is the second aid discovered with bullet holes within a week.

“While it may be fun to use a buoy for target practice, it is a federal crime,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy Chase, the U.S. Coast Guard officer in charge of aids-to-navigation in the vicinity of Block Island. “Buoy number 7 became a navigational hazard that could have easily been struck by a vessel and seriously injured or killed mariners.”

Damaging or tampering with federal aids-to-navigation is a crime and the maximum penalties upon conviction are up to 20 years of imprisonment and as much as $2,500 fine per day for each violation.

Contact the North Shoreham Police Department at 401-466-3220 or the Coast Guard at 401-435-2351 with any information about this crime.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Morkis | The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Ida Lewis observe a submerged buoy in the water off Block Island on April 24. The Ida Lewis is a 175-foot buoy tender home ported in Newport.