On May 26, the crew of the M/V WENATCHEE, operated by Washington State Ferries, responded to a “man overboard” situation in the frigid Puget Sound. According to an account by Mate Dan Twohig, here’s what happened.
At 9:15 p.m., two teenage girls notified Mate Twohig and Captain Steve Hopkins that somebody had jumped off the ship. Mate Twohig announced “man overboard!” over the ship’s public address system and radioed the pilothouse.
Within about 10 seconds, the crew had thrown life rings to establish a point of origin for the search and rescue effort. At the same time, Captain Hopkins ordered “full astern.”
Vic Lotorto, the pilot on watch, initiated a “crash stop” and pushed the “man overboard” button on the radar to create an electronic marker. The deck crew and engineers prepared the rescue boat, while the cabin crew prepared the first aid response and conducted crowd control with several hundred passengers. Two nearby ships, the M/V TACOMA and M/V YAKIMA, prepared to assist.
A shore-side response was coordinated as the search commenced. At 9:25 p.m., Captain Hopkins stopped the ship as the overboard person was spotted near some life rings. The rescue boat was launched.
Crowd control efforts continued as the victim was brought back aboard the M/V WENATCHEE and carried to a triage area. It was 9:34 p.m.
The victim was immediately treated for hypothermia and prepared for transport. Just 31 minutes after receiving the initial report of a person going overboard, the crew of the M/V WENATCHEE transferred the victim to an ambulance. Their efforts saved her life.
This story is an example of when things go right during an emergency situation aboard a ship. However, not all vessels have the proper training in place, nor have all crew been adequately trained in emergency response. For many vessels, man overboard training is mandated by the United States Coast Guard, and logs must be kept of the training. The problem is that training may not be consistently or properly done. As the COSTA CONCORDIA disaster and many other maritime accidents have taught us throughout the years, risky decisions and lack of training can lead to chaos onboard and result in needless deaths.
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Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers