Pilot boat rescues injured OSV deck hand from Gulf of Mexico

Four mariners are being praised for their swift response after an offshore supply vessel (OSV) crewman fell into the Gulf of Mexico nearly 28 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Investigators have not said how the deck hand fell from the 97-foot Ms. Mia and suffered serious cuts on the morning of May 20. The U.S. Coast Guard said the combination of luck, timing and the proximity of a specially-equipped pilot boat probably saved his life.

“Everything seemed to align here to help this guy out,†said Lt. Clint Smith of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles. “The fact that the pilot heard the distress signal, the fact that the pilot boat was out there, the fact that these guys had just gotten a brand new safety platform on board for this very type of situation — all the circumstances lined up in this guy’s favor.â€

Michael Danos, captain of Ms. Mia, issued a mayday call for a man overboard at 0626. Danos and First Mate Anthony Cantrelle made separate attempts to swim out to the crewman, who was in his early 20s and weighed more than 200 pounds, but neither could bring him back on board. They were able to place a life-ring around the unconscious crewman’s waist. The victim was not wearing a life vest when he fell, the Coast Guard said.

As Danos and Cantrelle worked to rescue the deck hand, John “Buck†Stephenson, a senior boat captain with the Lake Charles Pilots, had just dropped off a pilot roughly three miles from Ms. Mia. The OSV was moored to an oil rig in the West Cameron block 198 when the crewman fell in. The pilot, Capt. Brett Palmer, heard the call and alerted Stephenson, who had already started heading back to shore.

It took Stephenson and First Mate Carson Fasske about eight minutes to reach Ms. Mia, which had already disconnected from the oil rig and was floating alongside the crewman. When they arrived, the injured crewman had been in the water for almost 15 minutes. “The man in the water was unconscious floating in the water with a big pool of blood around him,†Stephenson said in a phone interview.

Stephenson’s 75-foot pilot boat Calcasieu Pass Pilot, which Gladding-Hearn shipbuilders delivered only a month before the accident, was equipped with a stern-mounted mesh platform designed for water rescues. Stephenson, who hadn’t ever used the device in an emergency, attempted to retrieve the victim by placing the mesh net underneath him. On the second try, he said a wave carried the crewman right onto the platform.

The rescue platform “worked really well†Fasske said. “We would not have been able to get him out of the water without it.â€

Once on board, Fasske administered first aid while Stephenson steered toward a Coast Guard helicopter that was already en route from Air Station Houston. Almost 45 minutes later, when Calcasieu Pass Pilot was just about five miles from shore, the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter arrived. A Coast Guard rescue swimmer was lowered onto the pilot boat. A rescue basket was lowered, and the swimmer and the injured crewman were hoisted back onto the helicopter.

Minutes later, the crewman arrived at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Beaumont, Texas, where he was treated for undisclosed injuries. The crewman is recovering with family outside Pensacola, Fla., Smith said.

An official with C&G Marine Service, which owns Ms. Mia, declined to comment on the accident, but confirmed that the crewman survived. Smith said the accident remains under investigation and is being handled by Coast Guard Sector Mobile.

Stephenson, Fasske, Danos and Cantrelle are being considered for Coast Guard awards for their roles in the rescue, Smith said.

Casey Conley

By Professional Mariner Staff