Recent responses from Georgia, Florida and Louisiana
Rescue in 20-foot seas
Station Savannah, Ga.
Air Station Savannah crewmembers rescued three Georgia fishermen 62 miles east of Sapelo Sound, Ga., after a 37-foot sportfishing boat capsized, sending all three men scrambling into a life raft. The three men were forced to abandon the sportfisher and engage the EPIRB. The signal was immediately picked up by Coast Guard watchstanders in Miami. Coast Guard rescue crews in Savannah launched minutes later, flew the 62 miles and located the three men inside the life raft. The rescue of the fishermen was challenged by 20-knot winds and 20-foot seas, but within 15 minutes all three were hoisted inside the helicopter safely and taken to Station Savannah where a local EMS crew was waiting. The cause of the accident was unknown. The fishermen stated they were asleep when the boat capsized and sank within minutes. (Feb. 17)
Stranded 90 miles offshore
Air Station Clearwater, Fla.
Crewmembers on the Coast Guard Cutter Bluefin towed a 47-foot sailboat with four people on board into Cape Canaveral after the sailboat lost its rudder 90 miles east of Cape Canaveral in 6-to-8-foot seas and 25-knot winds. One of the men on board notified the Coast Guard that the sailboat was adrift with a broken rudder but not in need of immediate assistance. Communications were suddenly lost between the sailboat crew and the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard launched a HC-130 airplane from Air Station Clearwater and cutter Bluefin to search out and assist the boaters. About two hours later at midnight, the C-130 crew located the sailboat, and roughly two hours later Bluefin crew had the sailboat in tow. All four members on board the sailboat were reported to be in good condition. Due to the severe sea state and no sign of better weather ahead, the cutter towed the sailboat for more than 23 hours. (Jan. 27)
Impaired at the helm
MSO New Orleans, La.
The U.S. Coast Guard, along with the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, announced that the Greek master of a vessel, who was arrested Feb. 4, was charged before a U.S. magistrate and pleaded guilty to operating a commercial motor vessel while under the influence of alcohol. Nikolaos Georgiou, the master of the 590-foot freight ship Proikonissos, was sentenced to one-year probation that precludes him from operating a vessel in U.S. waters as a master, and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine. A pilot from the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Steamship Pilot’s Association boarded the Proikonissos while it was moored at the Grand View Anchorage, near Gramercy, La. The pilot had to request the presence of the master on the bridge. When the master appeared an hour later, the pilot smelled alcohol on his breath and notified the Coast Guard. Chief Warrant Officer Quinn Quaglino and Lt. j.g. Emily Tharp, marine investigators from MSO New Orleans, went aboard the Proikonissos several hours later and also smelled alcohol on the master’s breath. Tharp administered breathalyzer tests that confirmed that Georgiou was intoxicated. “I am very pleased with the outcome of this case,” said Capt. Ron Branch, Coast Guard Captain of the Port, New Orleans. “How a licensed master, a professional mariner, could allow himself to become intoxicated while in a position where he is solely responsible for the safety of a large commercial vessel and its crew is inconceivable to me. I would like to personally thank the pilot who boarded the Proikonissos for reporting this situation to the Marine Safety Office and for the quick actions of the U.S. Attorney to bring this case to a quick conclusion,” said Branch. (Feb. 11)
Missing boaters located
Station Miami, Fla.
The crew of a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet located four missing commercial fishermen who were reported overdue. The crew of the 46-foot white commercial fishing boat was found 22 miles east of Jacksonville Beach, Fla. The owner of the boat had notified the Coast Guard that he had not heard from the four crewmembers and that they had not returned to port as scheduled. Rescue crews from Coast Guard Cutters Tarpon and Barque Eagle, an HU-25 Falcon Jet from Air Station Miami and a C-130 Hercules from Air Station Clearwater searched for the fishermen. (Feb. 13)
Station Yankeetown, Fla.
Two people were rescued and one died after their 16-foot skiff capsized in the vicinity of the Crystal River power plant. A 71-year-old man was found deceased on the north side of the power plant channel by the crew of an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater. The crew had searched for eight hours. The Jayhawk crew also located the two other men clinging to the hull of their capsized vessel. A boat from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was assisting a Station Yankeetown rescue boat in the search, transferred the survivors to the boat ramp on the Withlacoochie River for further transfer to EMS. No major injuries were reported at the time of the transfer. The survivors were able to stay with their capsized boat but the 71-year-old man drifted north of the boat holding on to a throwable flotation device. He was not wearing a life jacket. The three men were reported overdue by a wife shortly after they failed to make it home in time for the Super Bowl. Sea conditions were less than ideal with 4-to-6-foot seas, 15-knot winds, 56-degree water as well as limited visibility for search assets due to fog. (Feb. 2)