Sunday 20 October 2019

Rescuers contact men trapped deep inside capsized cargo ship

Rescuers used a helicopter to land on the side of the Golden Ray off the coast of Georgia and rappelled down the hull.

Rescuers work near the stern of the vessel (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Rescuers work near the stern of the vessel (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

By Jeff Amy and Stephen Morton, Associated Press

US Coast Guard rescuers have made contact with four crew members trapped inside a capsized cargo ship, confirming the men were still alive more than a day after the vessel overturned while leaving a port on the Georgia coast.

Rescuers used a helicopter to land on the side of the Golden Ray and rappelled down the hull. They drilled a hole to communicate and found the crew members were “on board and OK”, said Lieutenant Lloyd Heflin, who is co-ordinating the rescue.

Finding a way to free the men without putting them in more danger is the next step.

Rescue efforts broke off on Sunday after responders determined a fire aboard the ship made it too dangerous to go inside. They were also concerned about the stability of the ship, which was carrying 4,000 motor vehicles, some of which may have broken loose.

“It’s still going to be a while,” Mr Heflin said. “We’re still working the problem to see what the safest way is.”

Rescuers tried to communicate with the South Korean crew about possible hazards inside, but said there was an initial language barrier, he added.

The Coast Guard said it would seek to deliver supplies through the communication hole or another hole. Some rescuers worked from a tent set up on the deck of a tugboat off the ship’s stern, while smaller boats and helicopters buzzed around.

The accident that happened as the ship left Brunswick early on Sunday sparked fires and smoke. The flames were extinguished, but the huge ship was listing at nearly 90 degrees.

The 656ft vehicle carrier is stuck in the shipping channel, closing one of the busiest US seaports.

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A Coast Guard helicopter hovers over the ship (US Coast Guard/AP)

A statement from the South Korean foreign ministry said the crew members were isolated in an engine room. It said 10 South Koreans and 13 Filipinos had been on board, along with a US harbour pilot, when the ship began tilting.

In the hours immediately after the accident, the Coast Guard lifted 20 crew members into helicopters before determining that the smoke and flames and unstable cargo made it too risky to venture further inside.

Position records for the Golden Ray show the ship arrived in Brunswick on Saturday evening after making the short sail from a stop in Jacksonville, Florida.

The ship then departed the dock in Brunswick shortly after midnight and was under way for only 23 minutes before its movement stopped in the mouth of the harbour where it capsized, according to satellite data recorded by the ship-tracking website Marine Traffic.

The cause of the capsizing remains under investigation. Marine Traffic shows the Golden Ray overturned as it was passed by another car carrier entering St Simons Sound.

At the time, the skies were clear and the weather calm, with a southerly breeze of only 5mph, according to National Weather Service records.

The vessel is owned by Hyundai Glovis, which carries cars for Hyundai and Kia as well as others.

PA Media

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