Coast Guard has freed 3 crew members from capsized cargo ship; efforts to save 4th ongoing

The Coast Guard has so far freed three of the four crew members stuck in a capsized South Korea-owned cargo ship off the Georgia coast, officials said at a Monday afternoon news conference. Efforts to save the fourth, who is trapped on another deck, are continuing.

Earlier Monday, rescuers made contact with the four crew members stuck inside the South Korea-owned cargo ship that overturned and caught fire near a major port in Georgia over the weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The Golden Ray, a 656-foot vehicle carrier, listed “heavily” and then rolled over on its side early Sunday in St. Simons Sound near Brunswick, Ga., according to the Coast Guard.

Rescuers drilled a three inch hole overnight through the ship’s hull and made contact with the four crew members, who had been listed as missing.

Coast Guard rescuers were able to find the four South Korean crew members by rappelling down the side and drilling the hole, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which added that the rescue team communicated with the trapped sailors through the hole they drilled and also gave them food and water through the hole.

Rescuers work near the stern of the vessel Golden Ray as it lays on its side near the Moran tug boat Dorothy Moran, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in Jekyll Island, Ga. 
Rescuers work near the stern of the vessel Golden Ray as it lays on its side near the Moran tug boat Dorothy Moran, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in Jekyll Island, Ga.  (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John Reed told reporters on Monday afternoon that the three saved crew members were in one area of the massive vessel and the fourth, who is currently being rescued, is stuck behind glass, enclosed in an engineering control room. Reed added that the three were able to get access to fresh air, food and water through the hole, but rescue crews were unable to reach the fourth crew member who was on another deck.

Reed said marine engineers are working on a plan to get the fourth person “safely extracted” from that room where he has no access to fresh air, water and food.

“We will continue to press forward,” Reed told reporters.

Reed said when rescue teams heard “tap backs” from the three crew members stuck inside the cargo ship throughout the night it “really motivated the team” to continue with their rescue efforts.

“Knowing that the people were alive made all the difference,” said Reed.

He said the four crew members had been “subject to tough conditions over day and a half.” Reed said at least two of the South Korean men who were extracted from the hole drilled in the hull of Golden Ray were able to walk with assistance down to a waiting boat. All three are being examined by medical personnel.

On Sunday afternoon, Reed told reporters that once salvage professionals determined the vessel to be stable they worked to identify the best option to continue rescue efforts.

Also on Sunday, Reed said 20 people were safely evacuated from the ship, which had more than 4,000 vehicles inside,  before rescuers determined smoke and flames and unstable cargo made it “too risky” to venture further inside. Reed said the fire was observed off the ship’s starboard side and produced black smoke. It was eventually extinguished.

During Monday afternoon’s news conference, Reed said the incident remains under investigation. Earlier on Monday, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson told the Associated Press it is not known if weather conditions caused the ship to lurch. Hurricane Dorian brushed past the Georgia coast last week before being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

The ship, a vehicles carrier, was built in 2017 and sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands, according to the vesselfinder.com. The ship’s registered owner is a South Korean company.

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