Mariner killed in fall into San Francisco Bay when accommodation ladder line parts

A containership crewman fell to his death when a line parted while he was preparing an accommodation ladder in San Francisco Bay. The U.S. Coast Guard said he was not wearing a life vest.

The man-overboard mayday was radioed at about 0510 on Sept. 10 near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Coast Guard said in a statement. The 900-foot containership Ever Elite was inbound toward the Oakland Outer Harbor when the crew reported that a mariner had plunged into the water.

The accommodation ladder was being readied in advance of arrival at Oakland, said Ross Wheatley, the Coast Guard’s chief of investigations for Sector San Francisco. The victim was working with at least one other crewmember when the accident happened.

“They were preparing an accommodation ladder for use once they moored,†Wheatley said. “One of the crewmembers has to go down and deploy it. One of the lines that secured the lower part (of the ladder) to the vessel parted, and the lower half fell away along with the crewmember.â€

The victim was Huang Chin-Fu, 40, of Taiwan, said Stephen R. Gelman, administrator with the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office. Autopsy results were not yet available in October.

“The individual fell overboard underneath the western span of the Bay Bridge and was recovered in that vicinity,†said Lt. j.g. Jeremy Pichette, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The Coast Guard sent a 25-foot response boat. Six tugboats and at least one San Francisco Bar Pilots boat also helped. Huang’s body was recovered by the pilot boat PV Golden Gate after a training pilot directed the search, said Capt. Peter McIsaac, president of the pilots.

The Coast Guard said the victim’s body was spotted two feet underwater. Wheatley said he wasn’t wearing a flotation device while working on the accommodation ladder, contrary to his company’s safety policy.

The man was transported to San Francisco’s Pier 35, where he was pronounced dead.

The United Kingdom-flagged Ever Elite is operated by Evergreen Marine Corp., according to the Taiwan-based company’s Web site. The shipowner is Aries Line Shipping SA. Evergreen didn’t respond to requests for comment on the incident. No contact information for Aries Line could be found.

Wheatley said he doesn’t yet know the exact height of the fall. The investigation was continuing in October.

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff