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Casualty briefs

Jul 28, 2017 01:54 PM
Kirby 28044 is lodged just above Ocean Freedom’s bulbous bow after the accident in October 2015 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Kirby 28044 is lodged just above Ocean Freedom’s bulbous bow after the accident in October 2015 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

One missing, three rescued after tugboat sinks in Gulf
One person was missing after the tugboat Crosby Commander sank in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana on May 29. Three others on board escaped into a life raft and were rescued by a passing offshore supply vessel.

Crew aboard the 3,000-hp tug activated an emergency beacon at 0452 while underway roughly 30 nm south of Marsh Island, La. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the incident and declined to comment on a possible cause. The service also would not say whether the tug had another vessel in tow.

Crosby Tugs of Galliano, La., operated the 85-foot twin-screw tugboat, which was built in 1978.

“Unpredictable severe weather conditions that arose quickly was the cause,” said Myles Cheramie, an accounting manager with Crosby Tugs. He declined to elaborate.

Starting at about midnight on May 28, sustained winds registered 25 mph at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy near the tug’s final location. Winds quickly increased to about 35 mph and remained at that level for more than an hour before easing. Wave data was not available.

The 180-foot Andi Nicol rescued the three crewmen from their life raft. Coast Guard aircraft and cutters and a half-dozen private vessels searched for the missing crewmember for more than three days before calling off the search on June 1. Authorities have not identified the missing mariner. 

Bulker explosion kills two 1,300 miles off Cape Cod
Two mariners died following an explosion aboard the bulk carrier Tamar while it was underway April 24 in the North Atlantic roughly 1,300 miles east of Cape Cod.

The captain aboard the 623-foot ship reported the explosion and fire to the Coast Guard at about 0700. One mariner died following the initial blast and another died later that day. Two others suffered serious burns.

The Marshall Islands-flagged ship was sailing toward the Azores from Baltimore when the explosion occurred in a forward storeroom. Additional details on the incident were not available, and the Coast Guard is not investigating because it occurred on a foreign-flagged ship in international waters.

The Coast Guard coordinates maritime search and rescue in waters up to about 1,300 miles offshore. Portugal is responsible for coordinating rescues beyond that distance in that area of the Atlantic, according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Nicole Groll, who is stationed in Boston.

“If a distressed vessel is within our geographic region, we become the search and rescue coordinator for the response,” Groll said, noting that the Canadian Navy also diverted ships toward Tamar in cooperation with U.S. authorities.

Pararescuers from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing jumped from an HC-130 aircraft and boarded Tamar at 2130 on April 24 as it steamed toward Europe. A Portuguese military helicopter reached the ship and hoisted the two injured mariners and the U.S. pararescuers at 0415 on April 26.

The injured crew and American rescue team landed in Lisbon at about noon that day.

Deck hand found dead in Mississippi River
A deck hand last seen on a Mississippi River towboat was found dead four days later more than 75 miles downriver.

The body of Andrew Vargas, 30, of Hockley, Texas, was recovered from the river on May 18 near Belle Chasse, La. He was last seen working aboard the 60-foot, 1,000-hp Miss Courtney at about 2300 on May 14 near Gramercy, La. Authorities spent more than 15 hours searching for Vargas before abandoning the effort May 15.

Vargas was not on duty when crewmembers last saw him, according to Jason Strait, vice president of operations for Western Rivers Boat Management, which operated the vessel.

“He was last seen on his ‘off watch’ in the galley heading back upstairs to his room,” Strait said in an email, adding that Vargas was “an experienced deck hand.” He declined to comment on an investigation into the incident. 
NTSB: Pilot’s faulty order led cargo ship to hit barges
A cargo ship struck tank barges moored in the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, after a rudder order opposite of what the pilot intended, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The incident, which occurred at 2230 on Oct. 29, 2015, caused more than $750,000 in damage to the ship and three barges, and a crewman was injured trying to escape before impact.

Shortly before the accident, the 504-foot Ocean Freedom met the ship YM Virtue in a starboard-to-starboard pass, pushing Ocean Freedom into the south side of the channel. The pilot on Ocean Freedom ordered it hard right to steer away from the moored U.S. Navy ship Benavidez, and it ultimately cleared the vessel by at least 100 feet. But with its rudder hard to starboard, it rapidly crossed the channel and hit Kirby 28044. Two other Kirby barges also were damaged.

The pilot was looking aft from the ship’s forward pilothouse when he gave the incorrect order. “‘Did I say hard to starboard? I meant hard to port,’” he told investigators after the accident.

“Although the pilot was able to clear the Benavidez, his preoccupation with the maneuver distracted him from monitoring the vessel’s quick momentum turn toward the north bank barges,” the NTSB report said.

Nobody else on the bridge raised concern about Ocean Freedom’s abrupt course change after clearing the moored ship. The NTSB said the omission was a contributing factor in the accident.

Capt. Jay Rivera, presiding officer of the Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilots, cited the pilots’ strong safety record. He said the pilot involved in this incident was “very tenured.”

“We took a proactive approach after incident and discussed it with the group and pilots and got a lessons-learned type (of) discussion to prevent it from happening again,” Rivera said.

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