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New Coast Guard Video of sailors hoisted up to helicopter from sinking Cougar Ace, near Aleutian Islands, Alaska

7/25/06

Adak, Alaska


New Coast Guard Video of sailors hoisted up to helicopter (.69MB)

Three rescue helicopters, flying over choppy waters at night, picked up 23 people from aCoast Guard Rescuesinking cargo ship off the coast of Alaska's Aleutian Islands Monday but the daring operation got off on the wrong foot earlier when the Coast Guard command center received faulty information about the location of the badly listing ship.

Fifteen people were hoisted off the ship by 9:51 p.m. yesterday, Petty Officer Thomas McKenzie said. He hadn't yet received details on the remaining rescue operation. The Cougar Ace listed 90 degrees onto its port side in rough seas 230 miles south of the islands around 11 p.m. Alaska time July 23, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement yesterday.

The Coast Guard said 22 crew members were aboard. Mitsui spokesman Hidenori Onuki said there were 23. A 2-mile sheen on the water has come from the ship, Harrison said, probably related to its 430 metric tons of fuel oil and 112 tons of diesel.

Rescue attempts initially failed as the crew was huddled about 150 feet above the water on the high side of the ship's superstructure, Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Harrison said yesterday in a telephone interview from Juneau. Crew members were unable to descend to the water to lifeboats dropped by a Coast Guard plane, he said.

The crew members wore heavily insulated suits designed to withstand cold water as they endured temperatures as low as 49 degrees Fahrenheit in winds of 35 miles per hour. One had a dislocated and broken leg while the others are uninjured, Harrison said.

After hoisting the officers and crew into helicopters, the Coast Guard flew them to the Aleutian village of Adak where there is an airfield and medical clinic.

Mitsui didn't disclose salvage plans or what make of cars were in the hold.

"Our first priority is to rescue the crew," Onuki, general manager of the Tokyo-based company's public relations office, said in a telephone interview.
From Bloomberg

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