Four trapped crewmembers rescued from capsized vehicle carrier

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(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday evening that it has rescued the fourth and final crewmember from an overturned cargo ship off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., after reporting earlier in the day that all but one had been pulled to safety, NPR reported.

The Coast Guard's 7th District Southeast, located in Miami, Fla., tweeted on Monday evening, "All crewmembers are accounted for. Operations now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce."

Rescue crews had been working since Sunday to locate the missing crewmembers after the vehicle carrier Golden Ray became disabled and eventually overturned in St. Simons Sound, about 80 miles south of Savannah, Ga.

Emergency responders were notified shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday that a ship was disabled and "listing heavy" to its port side. Twenty-three crewmembers and a pilot were on the vessel at the time; 20 people were rescued from the ship Sunday, Coast Guard officials said.

At 12:45 p.m. Monday, 7th District Southeast said in a tweet: "All 4 #GoldenRay crewmembers are confirmed alive. Conditions unknown. Response crews will drill a hole to deliver supplies."

Capt. John Reed, commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said that once the initial 3-inch hole was drilled into the hull of the ship, food and fresh water were passed to the three mariners who were eventually pulled out. Getting fresh air to them was also key, he said.

Reed added the three survivors rescued earlier Monday were doing relatively well for having spent more than 30 hours inside the upturned vessel. All three were being treated at a local hospital. At least two were "very ambulatory" and able to walk under their own power, he said..

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The following is text of a news release from the United States Naval Institute (USNI):

(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — The Coast Guard rescued four mariners trapped for more than 34 hours inside a capsized 656-foot-long cargo vessel in St. Simons Sound, just outside the port of Brunswick, Ga., on Monday

The Marshall Islands-flagged vehicle cargo vessel M/V Golden Ray capsized on Sunday morning in the approach to the Georgia Ports Authority cargo terminal. The ship was carrying approximately 4,200 vehicles, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

After systematically tapping on the outside of the ship’s hull throughout the day, Coast Guard salvage crews heard a response from the crew trapped aboard, Capt. John Reed, commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said during a media briefing broadcast on Twitter.

“We were out there yesterday and did some of that tapping in the morning which was a little disheartening because you kept hearing things fall in the ship and you weren’t sure if those were people or if they were cars,” Reed said. “But there was just a system of tapping, where they would do three or four taps or more, and eventually they got tap backs.”

When the incident happened, 19 other crewmembers and a harbor pilot were able to escape the capsizing ship. For much of Sunday, rescuers were not sure any of the four missing crewmembers were alive, Reed said. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Once rescuers narrowed down the search, they first cut a small hole through the hole to pass water and food to the crew. The ship’s chief engineer also returned to the vessel to translate rescue instructions into Korean for the trapped crewmembers, Reed said.

Three of four survivors were together and were the first to be extracted through 3-foot by 2-foot hole salvage crews cut through the ship’s hull. The fourth crewmember was trapped in an engineering space but was extracted shortly before 3 p.m., according to the Coast Guard’s Twitter account.

The Glynn County Fire Department transported all four to a local hospital. The Coast Guard and state officials are now focused on mitigating environmental hazards and determining how to stabilize and remove the ship.

St. Simons Sound is the approach to the Georgia Ports Authority Port of Brunswick, which is one of the nation’s largest vehicle import and export site. The port can handle more than 800,000 vehicles each year and is being expanded to increase its capacity to process 1.4 million vehicles annually, according to the Georgia Ports Authority.

By Professional Mariner Staff