...or light a candle or whatever it is that you do, for these poor souls. I am hoping for the best.
Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter Crashes in Bering Sea
Six Crew Members of Capsized Freighter That Broke Apart Are Missing
By Matt Volz
Thursday, December 9, 2004; 3:34 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A Coast Guard rescue helicopter ferrying crew members from a powerless bulk freighter that was drifting toward shore crashed into the Bering Sea, and six of the aircraft's 10 passengers were still missing in the rough and frigid waters.
The fuel-laden ship later ran aground in southwestern Alaska and broke in two, and the Coast Guard was responding to a possible spill near a sensitive wildlife habitat. The other four helicopter passengers -- three Coast Guard personnel and one crew member -- were picked up by another helicopter participating in the rescue, the Coast Guard said. They were taken to Dutch Harbor on the island for medical treatment. There was no immediate word of their condition.
The search continued late Wednesday for the six freighter crew members still in the Bering Sea, where the water temperature was about 43 degrees and the waves were as high as 20 feet.
"The survival time is right around three hours in those conditions," said Rear Adm. James Olson, commander of the Coast Guard in Alaska, about four hours after the crash. "We'll search as long as we can be effective throughout the night."
Olson said he did not know whether the crew members were wearing survival gear. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Two people had remained onboard as the doomed helicopter flew away: a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and the master of the vessel. They were later rescued by the second helicopter before the ship ran aground.
The ship is owned by Singapore-based IMC Group and is registered under a Malaysian flag. Its crew was Filipino and Indian, the Coast Guard said.
An hour after the helicopter crash, the Selendang Ayu, a 738-foot-long freighter loaded with grain and 440,000 gallons of its own fuel, broke in two about four-fifths of a mile off Unalaska Island in the Aleutian chain, the Coast Guard said.
Olson said the Coast Guard is responding to a possible fuel spill. Unalaska Island, 800 air miles southwest of Anchorage, is home to sensitive wildlife habitat and fisheries.
The carrier's 440,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil had been transferred to inboard tanks and the fuel heaters were turned off to thicken the fuel, so in the event of a spill it would not disperse, Petty Officer Thomas McKenzie said.
The amount of spillage, if any, was not known Wednesday night, Olson said. The Coast Guard was transporting oil containment boom to the island's Dutch Harbor.
The Coast Guard and tug boats had tried since Tuesday to halt the drifting freighter, but 25-foot swells and 30-knot winds broke tow lines on each attempt.
A tug boat attached a line to the freighter on Tuesday evening, securing it for 12 hours until the line broke and the vessel resumed its path to shore.
The crew of the Selendang Ayu dropped anchor when it reached shallow water, but it was lost in the rough seas after just a half hour.
The crew later dropped its other anchor, which for a while held the freighter four-fifths of a mile from shore, Olson said.
Sometime around 6 p.m. Wednesday, the captain of the freighter requested the remaining crew member be evacuated from the vessel, as the anchor had begun to give way and the freighter had started to flood.
Eight were on board, after 18 had been previously evacuated.
The helicopter crashed into the sea soon after picking up the crew members, leaving behind the ship's captain and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. About an hour later, at 7:14 p.m., the freighter broke in half.
The freighter's main engine broke down for unknown reasons on Tuesday. The freighter was carrying grain on a trans-Pacific voyage reportedly for Japan.
The Selendang Ayu is a single-deck bulk carrier built in China in 1998. It is owned by IMC Transworld, a subsidiary of Singapore-based IMC Group.
Company representatives are in Dutch Harbor and have met with Coast Guard officials, Olson said.
Olson said all Coast Guard personnel had been accounted for.