By Ed Johnson
-- A boat crash on Sydney Harbor between a fishing trawler and an overloaded cruiser claimed a sixth life after a man died in hospital from brain injuries, police said.
The collision took place in the early hours of yesterday morning, triggering a rescue operation on the harbor involving more than 50 emergency workers, police boats and helicopters, New South Wales police said.
Four women and a man died at the scene, while another man died yesterday at the city's Royal North Shore Hospital. Officers released the identities of five of the six victims, aged between 20 and 29. The U.S. Embassy in Canberra said one was American.
The accident, described by police as the worst fatal crash on the harbor in living memory, came a month after the state's transport safety watchdog called for tighter regulation of recreational boating on Sydney's waterways.
Police yesterday impounded both vessels for forensic tests. Officers are determining whether possible consumption of alcohol played any part in the collision, said Superintendent Mark Hutchings of Marine Area Command.
``A number of people were breath tested and a number of people had blood samples taken from them,'' he told reporters.
The six dead and eight injured were on board a seven-meter (23-foot) half-cabin cruiser which belongs to a ship repair company and is licensed to carry only eight people.
John McPherson, whose Sydney Ship Repair and Engineering company owns the boat, said yesterday it was taken from its berth without permission and wasn't being used by any of his workers.
Most of the injured and dead were workers or customers at a bar in the Sydney harbor-side suburb of Balmain, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The crash came 13 months after an out-of-service commuter ferry and a private cruiser collided beneath the Harbor Bridge, killing four people, including two international skating judges.
In a report on that accident issued in late March, the Office of Transport Safety Investigations called for tighter boating license regulations and an increased number of police patrols on the harbor.
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