Young bulk carrier crewman hurt in fall from ship’s exhaust stack

Cinzia Damato

An Italian crewman on a U.S.-bound bulk carrier was seriously injured in a fall from the ship’s exhaust stack, leading to a U.S. Coast Guard medevac in heavy seas more than 100 miles off the coast of Alaska.

Watch standers at the Coast Guard’s 17th District Command Center in Juneau received a call at 0350 on Sept. 11, 2013, from the master of Cinzia D’Amato requesting aid for the 21-year-old mariner. Crewmembers reported that the man fell about 75 feet to the deck.

The victim suffered internal injuries, facial lacerations, a broken wrist and a dislocated shoulder. The 738-foot Italian-flagged ship, en route from Japan to San Francisco, was about 370 miles from Adak Island when the incident occurred.

Due to the ship’s distance from rescue support — more than 1,000 miles from Air Station Kodiak — the Coast Guard deployed two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and a HC-130 Hercules plane with additional helicopter crews on board to provide relief. The aircraft stopped for fuel in Cold Bay, Dutch Harbor and again in Adak before one of the helicopters rendezvoused with Cinzia D’Amato, which had diverted to within 117 miles of the island.

“The freighter had to transit close enough for our air crews to be able to come out and get (the victim),” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg. “We had to get that close so our helicopter could safely go out and conduct the hoist and fly back without too much worry about fuel.”

Lt. Cmdr. George Cottrell, a pilot on the helicopter that conducted the medevac, said his crew reached Cinzia D’Amato about 16 hours after the ship called for assistance. The Coast Guard reported rain in the Adak area, with 16-to-20-foot seas and winds gusting to 50 knots.

“(The victim) was conscious at the time we recovered him, however he did not speak English and was not able to communicate very well,” Cottrell said. “However, our rescue swimmer carefully evaluated his condition and was able to talk to other crewmembers on the vessel while he was on board.”

The victim was lifted aboard the Jayhawk in stable condition at about 2100. He was transferred to a commercial medevac service in Adak and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Cottrell said the conditions for the rescue were severe, even by Alaska standards.

“Fortunately, we were able to conduct the hoist just prior to sunset, which decreased the risk,” he said. “We experienced wind gusts … (that) caused significant turbulence for all crews involved. Seas were up to 20 feet, which resulted in water coming over the side of the vessel at times. The hoist went smoothly considering the conditions and is a testament to our training and the capabilities of the MH-60T.”

By Professional Mariner Staff