STOCKBRIDGE — The town’s weed harvester that capsized Thursday afternoon has been removed from Stockbridge Bowl in an intricate maneuver by R.W.’s Towing of Lee that included flipping it back to an upright position onshore.
As a result of the boat’s early-evening retrieval, the Department of Environmental Protection has given the bowl an all-clear after finding no evidence of any significant leakage of “bio-friendly oil” used by the vessel.
The harvester, which resembles a miniature barge, was transported to the town’s Highway Department garage for an inspection, hopefully to reveal clues about the cause of the mishap and to assess any damage, said Select Board Chair Roxanne McCaffrey.
“We had a little incident,” McCaffrey said at Thursday night’s meeting. “It did keel over, it listed to one side and eventually hit the tipping point and went over. No one was injured in any way, shape or form.”
“DEP was very happy, and it seemed to be almost a nonevent in terms of environmental hazard,” she said. “So, we’re all grateful and thankful that we retrieved the harvester and, hopefully, it can be repaired.”
She praised the “fantastic” response by Stockbridge Police and the Fire Departments, the latter of which brought in its dive team to help retrieve the boat for what turned out to be a slow-motion cruise across the lake, accompanied by a small flotilla, to the state boat ramp off Route 183.
Police closed the town beach briefly after the 3 p.m. incident Thursday, to make sure there was nothing considered significantly hazardous in the lake, McCaffrey said. For safety reasons, pleasure boats and kayaks also were cleared while the harvester retrieval was underway.
The Select Board will include a follow-up discussion on its agenda for its next meeting Thursday.
Highway Department Superintendent Hugh Page will examine the condition of the town’s other harvesters, said Town Administrator Michael Canales, who told The Eagle at the scene on Thursday that the cause of the accident was “a mystery; that’s the frightening part.”
The harvester operator, Chuck Kohrer, lives on the bowl and is a short-term employee of the town after he volunteered to pilot the boat.
In a brief interview at the boat ramp staging area, Kohrer said he was harvesting for weeds near the 3-acre island named “Kwuniikwat.” It is at the southwest end of the 392-acre state-owned great pond.
“It started listing to the right, so I got out of my seat, stood to the left, using the controls from that spot, and it was fine,” Kohrer said. “Then, all of a sudden, it went ‘oomph.’ I jumped off, it flipped over and scared the heck out of me.”
After swimming to shore, he surfaced in the Beechwood community, found an occupied house and called in to report the mishap.
“I wasn’t hurt, just embarrassed,” he said.