The crew of the 603-foot ship sent out a distress call on April 23 at 1341 local time, following an explosion that severely burned the third engineer, a 48-year-old Filipino.
With no medical help onboard, the crew of the Japanese-owned, Panama-flagged vessel was able to contact the U.S. Coast Guard in Portsmouth, Va. The ship’s crew reported being dead in the water 344 nm southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland.
U.S. Coast Guard personnel determined that the rescue units closest to the stricken ship were in Canada. They relayed the call for help to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Canadians then orchestrated a medical evacuation effort that involved a rescue boat, a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft.
Because the ship was beyond helicopter range, a boat had to be dispatched to pick up the burn victim and bring him closer to shore, where a rendezvous with aircraft could take place safely. The JRCC dispatched the rescue boat Leonard J. Cowley, which was then at sea 154 nm from the stricken ship. It arrived roughly eight hours later. The injured crewmember, suffering second-degree burns on his face, hands and chest, was transferred to Leonard J. Cowley. The rescue boat then headed toward Newfoundland and the meeting with the helicopter.
To increase the range of the Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter, unnecessary equipment was removed. To provide an extra margin of safety, a Canadian Forces Hercules aircraft escorted the helicopter from above.
The injured man was hoisted from Leonard J. Cowley to the rescue helicopter and flown to the Health and Science Center in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for treatment.
The crew of Pacific Leader was eventually able to get the ship up and running and reached Halifax a few days later.