Crew of cargo ship rescued in Atlantic
December 30, 1997
A Coast Guard helicopter rescues crew members forced to jump off the ship
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EST (2155 GMT)
MIAMI (CNN) -- A British-owned cargo ship was sinking in rough seas off Florida's Atlantic coast Tuesday after a water pipe ruptured in the engine room, flooding the vessel. All 28 crew members were rescued by U.S. helicopters.
The 28 men jumped into the chilly waters to be hoisted on to the choppers as the combination of high winds and 11-foot seas made it impossible to lift them from the ship's deck.
One by one, the men were picked up in baskets lowered by helicopters.
"They've got everybody off now," Coast Guard Petty Officer Jeff Hall said.
The 493-foot vessel Merchant Patriot was 270 miles east off Cape Canaveral, Florida, near Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
Winds blowing at 30 knots (34.5 mph) made the ship pitch and blew the life raft off the vessel's stern before rescue helicopters were in sight, the Coast Guard said.
|U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Charles Smith describes the scene as of noon EST|
||273K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Smith describes the sinking ship
||276K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
At least five Air Force and Coast Guard aircraft from bases
in Florida and the Bahamas were involved in the rescue. A
Coast Guard diver was in the water providing assistance.
The helicopters flew the rescued crewmen to Marsh Harbor, about 25 miles (40 km) away. Plans to transfer them to a waiting cargo ship that had reached the scene were thwarted by the high winds.
All the survivors were reported to be in good health.
Details on their nationalities were not immediately available.
The fate of the Merchant Patriot was uncertain. "It's listing, taking on more and more water. Some cargo has already been lost," Hall said.
But he added that the ship was split into compartments and
if the crew had shut the hatches, it was possible the vessel
might not sink to the bottom of the ocean.
The cargo vessel first reported trouble at 3:21 a.m., but
crew members told the Coast Guard they had the flooding under
control. About four hours later, however, the ship contacted
the Coast Guard to say help was needed.
The Merchant Patriot, which was flying under a Ukrainian
flag, was traveling from Praia Mole, Brazil, to Savannah,
Georgia, with a general cargo that included containers and
heavy steel, a spokesman for the ship's owners, Peter Harris,
said from London.
He said the vessel is owned by the British company Cenergo
Reuters contributed to this report.